By Víctor Manuel Ramos, Newsday
Several dozen advocates and volunteers from minority community groups launched an effort to register more blacks and Hispanics to vote at a Brentwood gathering on Thursday, where many said the only way their communities will earn respect is by turning out to the ballots.
Among the key issues where they would like to see local officials, legislators and national candidates be more responsive are increasing the minimum wage, passing immigration reform that would help the undocumented and help low-income families facing foreclosure, they said.
“We are here to say our community is voting this year and we are going to make sure this happens,” said Daniel Altschuler, coordinator of the Long Island Civic Engagement Table, an islandwide initiative that unites civil rights advocacy groups in seeking more political involvement among immigrant and minority groups.
The group said it would target thousands of potential voters in the Brentwood, Central Islip and Bay Shore areas – knocking on doors, standing on street corners and attending area events to convey the importance of registering and voting.
Luis Valenzuela, director of the Long Island Immigrant Alliance, said part of what volunteers would seek to do would be to fight apathy by educating area residents about how they could effect change in their neighborhoods.
“A lot of times politicians ignore communities like these and people have gotten to the point of asking ‘Why the heck vote?’” Valenzuela said. “When you turn around and explain to people ‘That library at your street corner belongs to you; that firefighting station is yours and that school where your children go belongs to you and you can elect those representatives’ the story changes.”
Altschuler said his group estimates that up to 40,000 blacks and Latinos can be added to the Suffolk County voter rolls, based on its own analysis of voter registration numbers and population figures.
About 9,000 of those potential voters, he said, are in the Brentwood area alone.