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
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