Original URL:  http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/election/article/0,1299,DRMN_36_1529963,00.html

Latino voters said no to 31
Hispanic-heavy areas rejected proposal for English immersion
Rocky Mountain News, November 7, 2002
By Nancy Mitchell

Early indicators show Hispanic voters helped defeat Amendment 31, overwhelmingly rejecting the measure in select Denver neighborhoods and in heavily Hispanic counties across Colorado.

In Denver's three most heavily Hispanic neighborhoods, voters by a 2-to-1 margin turned down the ballot measure requiring yearlong English-immersion programs for children who speak little English.

And in counties across Colorado, from the San Luis Valley to the urban Front Range, a pattern emerged - higher numbers of Hispanic residents typically translated into more "no" votes on 31.

"We knew this was striking at the heart of the identity of our people," said Ramon Del Castillo, who led a coalition of Denver-area Hispanic activists against the measure. "It was a sweet victory."

Castillo chaired La Gente, which partnered with English Plus, the group leading the No on 31 campaign. Another Hispanic organization, the Latin American Research and Service Agency, also worked with English Plus.

"I think the question that Latinos had was, 'Why do you want to eliminate our options and let us have only one way of helping our kids learn English?' " said Polly Baca, executive director of LARASA. "We knew the negative impact of 31 on our Latino community and our kids."

In Massachusetts, where voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a similar English-immersion ballot question, Hispanic voters also said no. Exit polls by the University of Massachusetts show 92 percent of nearly 600 Hispanic voters questioned voted down the measure.

Similar exit polling was not conducted in Colorado. Nor do state elections officials track voting by race or ethnicity.

That means analysis must come by other methods.

To get a glimpse of Hispanic voting trends on 31, the Rocky Mountain News compared county demographics from the 2000 census with Tuesday's votes by county.

The News also examined voting on 31 at 10 precincts in Denver's most heavily Hispanic neighborhoods, based on census numbers.

John Britz, English Plus consultant, said the findings are no surprise. "Our polling indicated, in large numbers, 85 percent-plus Latino households were opposed to 31 in Colorado," he said.

Not all metro-area counties followed the trend. Adams County narrowly approved the measure, despite having the state's 15th-highest percentage of Hispanic residents. And El Paso County, with just 4 percent Hispanic residents, soundly defeated 31.

mitchelln@RockyMountainNews.com (303)892-5245


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