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number of registered Mexican American voters and the number of Hispanic elected public officials is growing faster than that of any other ethnic group. From 1974 to 1984, the number of Chicanos in elective office nationwide increased 82 percent, while the number of registered voters increased 111 percent, Velasquez said. Today, there are more than 3,200 Hispanics in office in the U.S. As Velasquez points out, this is a far cry from the days when participation in elections was so low “experts” said Chicanos would be incapable of integrating into mainstream American society and culture. Velasquez said that in the past, when Mexican Americans did not register to vote, the figures were not saying that “Mexicans are lazy, unsophisticated or apathetic, they were saying that the political process was not working because it was not being run according to law.” In other words, Mexican American voters did not turn out at the polls because they knew the decks were stacked or the districts were gerrymandered. Court battles, voter registration drives, and the institution of single member districts in some areas have contributed to a brighter picture of representation for the state’s Mexican Americans. State Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin, points out that Texas leads the nation in the number of Hispanics elected to public office. The number climbed to 1,466 in 1985, ahead of New Mexico with 588 and California with 450. Barrientos said he does not believe that Chicano voters fail to turn out at the polls because the system is rigged, but for a number of different reasons. “I think it has a lot to do with economics. If I am Joe Sanchez or Gonzalo Barrientos and I have worked 10 or 12 hours a day, driving a truck, digging a ditch, or having three jobs, and it’s Tuesday my best intentions about voting probably would be overcome by my exhaustion and worrying about paying the light bill, or providing some new blue jeans for little Johnny,” Barrientos said. Rep. Lena Guerrero, D-Austin, agreed that a number of factors play a part in low turnout. “[Having] too many elections is not a good thing, and that’s a problem because in 1988 you are looking at a March presidential primary. You’re looking, in Austin, at an April city council election and a mayor’s election. We’re looking at a May primary election and possibly a June Rep. Gonzalo Barrientos runoff. And all of a sudden, you’ve really diluted your opportunity to get them to the polls,” Guerrero said. “You know, the law says that you have two hours off to go vote, but you realize that there are a lot of Mexican Americans who fear that they will come back to no job at all and refuse to go, and that’s probably true of blacks as well,” she said. “Then there’s the ballot itself. Sometimes it’s so incredibly long and there are so many names you’ve never heard of.” Guerrero added that there is also the “whole issue of intimidation that “My mother’s first reaction about Roy Barrera’s name on the ballot was: ‘I ought to vote for him because I almost never get that chance. ‘ ” we’ve seen. For instance, the Republican party in 1984 ran ads in El Paso on Spanish radio saying that if you are not legally registered to vote and you go to the polls, there will be somebody there get you. Mark White called a press conference and said no, no, no, this is nothing more than voter intimidation and you can’t do that. But it has such a lasting effect. They did that in 1984 but you could see the effects for years.” Jose Garza of MALDEF \(the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education have been so called “ballot security” programs that claim to be designed to eliminate voter fraud, but which are used to harass minority voters. They include sending postcards to verify registrants’ addresses but only voters in minority neighborhoods get the cards. Due to another “ballot security” program in San Francisco, Garza said, Mexican American voters became afraid to ask for bilingual ballots for fear that, despite the fact that they were citizens, their names would be turned into the Immigration Service for investigation. Guerrero said an important way to attract Mexican American voters to the polls would be to add more Mexican American names to the statewide ballot. “My mother’s first reaction about Roy Barrera’s name on the ballot was: ‘I ought to vote for him because I almost never get that chance.’ That draw has not been there [for Mexican Americans], and that’s a difficult thing,” Guerrero said. “But once she understood that Barrera was not a Democrat, then she understood that Barrera had abandoned the party of his father, and that was a no-no. But before that, she was saying, `Gosh, I always vote for a Mexicano,’ ” Guerrero said. Barrientos and Garza say a number of things could be done to increase the voter participation, and the number of Chicanos in office. Measures include increased single member districts, liberalized voter registration, continued watchdog efforts to stop gerrymandering, more voter awareness programs and training for Chicano candidates. Barrientos suggested inexperienced candidates be given training in such things as what to expect when soliciting votes door to door, and how to stretch a dollar when running on limited campaign funds. Guerrero said more outreach programs for minority candidates should be established. Garza said Texas has a fairly progressive voter registration law. Other southwestern states, he said, have purge laws 12 FEBRUARY 20, 1987