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Election 2008: Waking Nevada’s “Sleeping Giant”

November 3, 2008

Las Vegas, NV – They have been called the Silver State's Sleeping Giant: the more than 190,000 eligible registered Hispanic voters in Nevada. Politicians of every political stripe are working to win them over in the final hours before the Nov. 4 election.

Nevada is ranked number seven in the nation in the number of eligible Hispanic voters, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Beverly Rodriguez, a canvasser with the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN), has been focusing her efforts on one congressional district in Las Vegas. She says the goal of the non-partisan effort is to get 5,000 Latinos to the polls.

"They are people that never voted, or that have voted once. Neither campaign is targeting them, because they all target frequent voters and 'undecideds.' We are trying to get that bottom percentage out to vote."

As of the weekend, Rodriguez said the voter drive had turned out more than half of the target voters. She says that group is equal to the margin of victory in several recent elections, so while Hispanics are small in number, they can make a difference in who gets elected.

When the race for the White House began, immigration was a hot-button issue. Now, it is not even mentioned as one of the top three concerns. Rosa Molina, a campaign organizer for PLAN who is working to get out the Hispanic vote, says the shift in voter interest is understandable, given the unique dynamics of this election.

"Voters are now very motivated by Obama being a minority, and because they feel very strongly against the war, and also the economy is hitting them hard."

The Las Vegas "Review Journal" reported early statewide voter turnout at 20 percent for Latinos, compared to 25 percent for all Nevada voters.

Michael Clifford/Mike Longman, Public News Service - NV