Tuesday, November 4, 2008

CALIFORNIA: Priest Gets Out The Vote

We got this update from Mari Lopez, who works at the California Partnership, which is a statewide coalition fighting poverty in California.

San Bernardino -- Father Patricio Guillen and Ramon Vera, from Liberia del Pueblo, an immigrant help center, endured Monday night rain to talk to voters before Tuesday’s election. They were determined to complete their voter contact list before the night ended. This morning they hit the streets again talking to those who have not yet cast their vote.

“We’ve been talking to as many registered voters as we can, whether they’re first time voters, older voters or anybody. We’ve even spoken to some veterans. Most everybody is saying they want change” said Father Guillen.

San Bernardino, a county that is heavily Latino is also a county where there are few resources for low-income families. “The people we’ve spoken to are concerned about the economy, health care and education. Even a veteran that we spoke with said that because of the economy, San Bernardino is going to need more money for social programs to help poor people with kids. That’s why he is voting,” added the 82 year-old priest. “Most people we've talked to are very hopeful.”

Father Guillen and Liberia del Pueblo have been involved in projects to mobilize the immigrant vote since early this year in San Bernardino. They have focused their efforts particularly on mobilizing Latino voters in anticipation of the record number of voters expected at the polls. They’ve worked to make sure that Latinos understand their rights, the propositions on the ballot in California and where to vote.

Father Guillen feels a particular responsibility during elections. “I’m out because when people see a priest walking for this election it really gets their attention. Part of our religious conviction is to participate not only in church matters but also in civic matters. And that’s what I tell people when I talk to them. But what’s most important, I tell them is that they go out and vote!”

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