Spanish language TV station Univision 41 (WXTV) has launched a voter registration drive to increase the number of Spanish-speaking registered voters in New York and New Jersey. The voter drive by Univision 41 will feature announcements broadcast several times daily on the station directing unregistered Spanish-speaking citizens to call phone numbers in their area for information on registering to vote. The campaign, dubbed "Destino 2001" (The Future 2001), will continue until voter registration deadlines for the November 2001 election. Univision 41 is working with the Hispanic Federation, a membership organization representing over 69 health and human service agencies in the New York tri-state area, to implement Destino 2001.
"The only way that Hispanics can make their concerns felt in the halls of power is to become voters who must be courted," said Ramon Zayas, anchorman of "Noticias 41 Al Despertar," the weekday 6 am news program broadcast on Univision 41. Zayas is one of several Hispanic celebrities who will act as on air spokespersons for the voter drive. They include New York Yankees announcer Roberto Clemente, Jr. (son of the legendary Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder) and entertainer George Lamonde.
The Univision 41 voter drive comes at a pivotal time for the New York area's Hispanic community. Year 2000 census data shows that Hispanics now make up 18.6 percent of the population of the viewing area of New York TV stations. That's up from 15.1% ten years ago. Hispanics make up 11.9 percent of the population of Fairfield County, Connecticut, 15 percent of the population of northern and central New Jersey (including a whopping 39.8% of Hudson County) and 27% of the population of New York City.
Despite their growing numbers, Hispanics lag non-Hispanics in voter registration. Only 54.8 percent of voting age Hispanics in New York City are registered to vote. That is far lower that the 74.6 percent of non-Hispanics who are registered according to the New York Scarborough Hispanic Custom Study 2000.
In at least one indicator of political interest in their votes, Hispanics are woefully under represented in the New York area. During the 2000 political season, more than $77 million was spent on TV advertising in races for office here according to CMR (Competitive Media Reporting). Of that, Spanish-language TV received only a little more than $1 million, less than two percent of the total spent, although Hispanics make up almost 19% of the population in the tri-state area. One 2001 campaign may be bucking that trend. Michael Bloomberg, running for Mayor of New York, cut at 30 second version of his launch commercial in Spanish and broadcast it on Univision 41 here. "I really believe that in this election, the Latino vote will tilt a race one way or another, particularly in New York City," said Luis Miranda, President of Miranda y Mas, Inc., a political advertising firm whose clients have included Senators Chuck Schumer and Hilary Clinton and Bronx Borough President Fred Ferrer.