Tony Yapias is an immigrant, a U.S. citizen, and a voter.

It used to be that Yapias found Latino immigrant voters like himself to be few and far between.

But now, the director of Proyecto Latino de Utah says immigration politics have sparked a new interest in voting. Green-card holders are applying for citizenship, he says, and naturalized citizens are registering to vote.

"We all know someone who is undocumented," Yapias says, and that, he says, is a motivator for many naturalized U.S. citizens to vote.

Proyecto Latino is holding an informational meeting today for Latino registered voters on the new voting machines, as well as on candidates and referendums. It will be from 3 to 5 p.m. at Horizonte Instruction and Training Center, 1234 S. Main.

"I have personally answered or returned calls to probably 300 people from Ogden to Provo to central Utah," Yapias says. "That tells me there's a great interest in our community."

Still, despite efforts by Yapias and others involved in Latino or immigrant voter registration and education, it's unclear how much of an impact the Latino vote will have this November.

Last year, Brigham Young University's exit poll showed that native- and foreign-born Latinos comprised only about 3 percent of the state's voters. That's virtually the same as it was for the last presidential election.

Utah did see some 3,850 naturalization applications in advance of a July 30 fee hike this year — nearly double last year's numbers. But even if those who naturalize become voters, it's not clear they'd be a unified bloc.

A Pew Hispanic Center report emphasizes that Latinos in general aren't necessarily a voting bloc. In Arizona, the report shows that while two Republicans who centered their campaigns on getting tough on illegal immigration were defeated, Sen. John Kyl, who emphasized enforcement measures, easily won re-election and earned 41 percent of the Hispanic vote.

On what motivates Latinos to register to vote, Frank Cordova of Southwest Voter Registration believes that local issues — such as vouchers and local candidates — are more prominent in people's minds than immigration.

Cordova's group registered some 1,500 people this year and counts nearly 20,000 registered, active voters in Salt Lake County.

"If we could get half of those people to vote in the mayor's race, or any other issue, and all voting the same," he says. "That's the trick."


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