Actor Wilmer Valderrama has a message for Latino voters this election season: put your vote where your mouth is.
“We need for the Latino community to stop the bulls–t and understand that the Latin community in America needs them to wake up and actually engage. I just don’t think they understand how important it is — that one vote actually does count.”
The Venezuelan-Colombian star of “That ’70s Show” has become something of an expert on the Latino vote. In 2004 he co-founded Voto Latino, a group marshaling the power of celebrities and social media to encourage Latinos — especially younger Latinos — to participate in the democratic process.
Valderrama argues that the booming Latino population amounts to nothing if Latinos fail to make a serious commitment to civic engagement. He also blames the lack of attention paid to the Latino community by the country’s main political parties on low turnout rates.
“They go, ‘yeah, sure, you guys are 50 million plus in America, but you’re not showing up in the polls,’” he tells Huff Post Latino Voices. “So we become an irrelevant mass.”
Low voter turnout is the biennial plague of the Latino community. We vote less than every other ethnic group by a significant margin except Asians, where our turnout is only slightly higher. In our blowout year, 2008, more than half of eligible Latino voters stayed home on Election Day — whereas 65 percent of eligible black voters hit the polls, and 66 percent of eligible white voters showed up as well.
Most Latino citizens shamefully choose to waive the most fundamental right of their citizenship. They literally choose not to choose.
This year, many Latino voters are threatening to stay home come November — as a form of protest, presumably (because it worked so well in 2010). The line of reasoning sounds something like: Since Obama didn’t do for us what he promised he would, we’re not going to help him get reelected, even if it means eking out a far worse existence under the other guy. That’ll show him!
But what these misguided rebels fail to realize is that not voting is always against one’s own interest. There’s always a choice, even if the options aren’t ideal. In our two-party system — which may be another part of the problem — there is always a candidate who is more aligned with your personal politics, who is closer to your concept of a perfect president.
In the upcoming election, America will have to decide between two men who share some similarities but also have many differences. It’s up to us, as American voters, to decide which man best embodies our collective vision for America.