The Emerging Influence Of Hispanic Voters

(CBS) Even though California college student Diego Janacua can't cast a vote in this year's presidential election because he's not yet an American citizen, he's helping to register other new voters and doing everything he can to make sure Latinos make it into the voting booth.

Univision, a Spanish language network, is also working to engage Latinos in the American political process.

First, registering people for citizenship and then, signing up new voters.

"Our audience needed to be informed," said Univision anchor Teresa Quevedo. "Not just informed, not about what is going on around them, but that they can empower themselves - that they have a voice and that voice can be heard if they vote."

And heard in bigger numbers than ever before - there's been a steady increase in Latino voters since 1980 when just under two and a half million voted for president. That number had more than doubled by the 2000 election, but this year, the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute expects at least 9.3 million Latinos to vote in November.

"We can no longer be called the sleeping giant," said California State University professor Jaime Regalado.

Their political power has been predicted before, but Professor Jaime Regalado told Hughes this is the year Latinos will finally become empowered.

"If it's going 20 percent, 25 percent - one of four or every five voters...that's huge!" said Regalado.

While President Bush captured a Republican record 40 percent of the Latino vote in 2004, the latest Pew Hispanic Center poll finds the number of Latinos who identify themselves as Democrat has surged from 47 to 59 percent.

And the candidates are fighting for those votes, with everything from Spanish language television ads to mariachi music and Mexican food at campaign stops.

To Diego Janacua, and those who hope to inspire more than an occasional stop at a taco stand, it's about changing attitudes.

"It's not more of a Latino or ethnic issue, bit it's more of just being an American, I guess," Janacua said. Latinos are starting to feel like they're Americans."

Americans, who can make a difference this November.

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