One of the key items on the to-do list of Boston’s mayoral candidates is trying to excite Latino voters enough to get them to the polls on Sept. 24.
That is when voters will pick which two from a field of a dozen candidates will face off in the November general election.
Of Boston’s approximately 635,000 residents, Latinos number more than 100,000, and they constitute the largest ethnic group in the public system. But when it comes to elections, they are woefully under-represented at the polls, according to The Boston Globe.
Only some 21,000 are registered, and of those, about half have voted in recent years, the newspaper said.
Some of the reasons for the low numbers, experts say, include being undocumented, or not being a U.S. citizen.
“Most people concentrate on who are eligible to vote, and that’s a reasonable consideration,” said Miren Uriarte, a research associate at Mauricio Gastón Institute for Latino Community Development and Public Policy, in the Globe article. “But there is a very large mixture of immigration status within the Latino community that makes it impossible for them to vote.”
Political candidates in the race, which thus far has no front-runner, are trying to turn the trend around, the newspaper said.
For the first time, a Latino is on the mayoral ballot. City Councilor Felix G. Arroyo is among a dozen candidates hoping to succeed Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who decided not to seek re-election.
Menino is Boston’s longest-serving mayor, holding the post for five terms, or 20 years.
It’s anyone’s guess whether the chance for new leadership, and the candidacy of Arroyo, drive more Latinos the polls.
Arroyo has name recognition — his father, Felix D. Arroyo, served on the City Council and the School Committee. He quickly replies to any mention about being the first Hispanic on the ballot by saying that he is more than just the Latino candidate.
“I’m very proud of who I am and where I come from. I wouldn’t be me if it wasn’t for the way I was brought up,” he said, according to The Globe. “But also, I am running to be the mayor for the entire city of Boston.”
“The historical nature of this campaign is not lost on me; I recognize it,’’ Arroyo said in the Globe story.
“But it’s not why I am running. I’m a running as a son of the city, who loves the city, who believes in the city, who believes everyone deserves an opportunity in every neighborhood.”
The candidates have sent out Spanish-language campaign materials and recruited Latinos to drum up support in the community. Several are also going door-to-door in Latino neighborhoods.
Some of the major candidates include John Connolly, a city councilor, Charlotte Golar Richie, the former head of the city’s department of neighborhood development, state representative Marty Walsh and Rob Consalvo, a city councilor.
Several Latino groups are trying to encourage their community to head out to vote.
“We’re reaching to infrequent Latino voters who don’t usually vote in municipal elections to increase turnout and convince them of the importance of participating in local elections,” said Alejandra St. Guillen, executive director of Oiste?, a Latino advocacy group, in the Globe story.