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INTRO: For the first time in history registered voters in Nevada surpassed 1 million. Turn-out jumped to 77 percent - levels that haven't been seen in Nevada in more than a decade. Such high turn out is facilitated by the thousands of organizations that fanned out across the valley offering strangers registration forms. Among them Latino groups in Clark County registered a record number of voters and that is momentum leaders say they need to put Latino in a major Southern Nevada office. KNPR's Ky Plaskon reports.
SOUND: Spanish-speakers in Phone bank
PLASKON: It's a common sound heard this election year . . . phone banks. The Mexican American Political Association teamed up with canvassers from across the nation to contact Latinos in Las Vegas and add them to constituent lists. This effort pumped up registration by 22 percent in just 8 weeks to nearly 80-thousand Latinos according to a study by the voter's rights group, Voices for Working Families. The group drove constituents to the polls too.
Alvaro Garcia was one.
GARCIA: (IN SPANISH) Well I think that if there is someone who defends us and tells us the truth, he said about his planned vote for John Kerry, we have to support them, we have to assist them.
PLASKON: According to the Voices for Working Families study the retired Garcia is a bit older than typical Latino voters. Most are 41 yeas old compared to an average voting age of 47 in the general Clark County population. The study also showed Latino women vote at slightly higher rates than women in general, but Latino men vote at lower rates. For Garcia's daughter Judy Torres, one issue affected her decision, Yucca Mountain.
TORRES: I'm having a baby and the yucca waste in Yucca Mountain you could die, you could be disabled and everything worse could happen to you.
PLASKON: The study also showed 55 percent of Latinos in Las Vegas register as Democrats, 10-percent higher than the general population of Clark County.
PLASKON: On Election night at a restaurant/bar that doubles as a speak-easy for Latino political activists, Miguel Barrientos of the Mexican American Political Association was up-beat despite the Democratic loss.
BARRIENTOS: We celebrated the fact that we got the Latino vote out and we celebrated the fact that we built a tremendous base and we can now go forward with elections and getting Latinos on the ballot.
PLASKON: Latino representation in Clark County is something he says is badly needed.
BARRIENTOS: Right now we have zero we have one candidate who is on the school board, he is like our lone ranger. But we need to get more in there to help them out.
PLASKON: Barrientos isn't wasting any time galvanizing the momentum to elect the first Latino to a major seat in the county. Next week, he'll announce the candidacy of Andreas Ramirez for mayor of North Las Vegas. The campaign advisor will be running against incumbent Mike Montandon. The population in North Las Vegas is 36 percent Latino, but only 16 percent are registered voters. That'll mean an uphill battle, but one that they believe has already begun with the recent election's mobilization.
Ky Plaskon News 88-9 KNPR