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Weekend Caravan “Cruises” for Voters

April 10, 2008

Woodburn, OR – Car caravans in the Salem area this weekend will be cruising to attract attention, and new voters. They'll wind through the streets on Saturday in Independence, Salem and Woodburn, with a nonpartisan "get out the vote" message aimed at Latinos.

In the last presidential election, fewer than half of Oregon's Latino voters cast ballots. Today, the number of potential Latino voters in the state tops 100,000. Many are teens who have been raised in the U.S. and can vote for the first time. Francisco Lopez of the group "Voz Hispana" says in some parts of the world, the caravan is an election tradition.

"For example, in Latin America, 'caravanes' or caravans are very common. People go through the streets with sound systems and ask people to vote, to participate. So we're applying innovative ways of encouraging people to vote, using models they are very familiar with."

Oregon's Latino population has doubled in recent years. Lopez says many are young families, putting down roots in rural communities and willing to get involved.

"You have a community moving out of the 'survival stage,' to more an integrated stage. We are not totally there yet, but voter registration is part of that process of moving toward full integration."

Lopez says in addition to immigration reform, Latino voters have the same concerns as any other Oregonian – better jobs, housing, healthcare and education. On Saturday, the caravans will meet for a mid-afternoon rally at Chemeketa Community College in Salem at 2:30 PM.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR