Julia Goldberg

Election Master

Following is an interview with Denise Lamb, director of the state Bureau of Elections for New Mexico.
Julia Goldberg: Before we get into other people's dire predictions for the Nov. 2 election, as the director of the state Bureau of Elections, what's your worst case scenario?

Denise Lamb: You know something – I never have a worst case scenario. I have a hopeful heart.

Julia Goldberg: You've been skeptical about the concerns people have raised about electronic voting. But everyone, from the New York Times to Wired Magazine, is taking them seriously. What do you attribute that to?

Denise Lamb: In our state, we have 16 years of experience with electronic voting machines. To the New York Times and Wired Magazine, this is a new issue. I'm going to point out to you that in New York, in Manhattan, where the New York Times is located, they still vote on lever voting machines. A lever voting machine has no paper whatsoever, not even audit tape to post on the door. If Manhattan has been voting for all these years with a lever that doesn't generate one iota, not one scrap, of paper and the New York Times is concerned about electronic voting machines, they need to look a little closer to home.

Julia Goldberg: I'm sure Ralph Nader's status on the ballot will change again between the time of this interview and our publication deadline. But, as of now, Nader's appeal before the Supreme Court was pending to get his name on the ballot. If successful, how will that effect the election? Will the ballots get reprinted? Will the overseas ballots have to be remailed?

Denise Lamb: You know something – I can't talk about it. I'm under threat by my lawyers.

Julia Goldberg: Oh. Well, can you answer this? Republicans and others have raised the issue that some of the judges ruling on the Nader ballot issue are Democratic donors. The Secretary of State's Office, where you work, also has been accused of partisanship regarding electoral matters. How can the public trust that elected officials don't let their own political standing effect their decisions?

Denise Lamb: Because we have impartially enforced the election code. Let's look at it this way, and this is one thing I can talk about in terms of the Nader case – we put Nader on the ballot. We were sued to take it off. The courts tell us what to do. Now we're being sued to put him back on by another group. When you are the filing office and you're impartially carrying out the election code, the fact that everybody sues you is a good thing. It means you're doing your job. We're obviously very impartial in the way we do our job because we are being constantly sued by all parties. If we were only being sued by one party, that might be a problem.

Julia Goldberg: Let's talk about another of the election issues that's been in the courts lately: Voter ID for first-time voters. First, a judge ruled they would have to show it. Then he reversed and said it would be too difficult. Now, some County clerks are planning to require first-time voters to show ID, some aren't, and your office has legally challenged the clerks planning to require ID. Break this down a little bit.

Denise Lamb: The big issue is that the election code has to be uniformly applied throughout the state. If you remember back in the 2000 election, the case that went to the Supreme Court, Bush and Gore, the issue that ultimately decided that is due process. You had different standards being used in different counties in Florida. In one county, a hanging chad was a vote, in another county a dimpled chad was a vote and so that was the basis of that case. You can't have people's votes being counted differently. Our election code has recognized that for a long, long time. If you read the Secretary of State's major duties in the election code, what the Secretary of State is supposed to do is obtain and maintain uniformity in the application, operation and interpretation of the election code. That's our number one duty.

Julia Goldberg: Compared to the eight or so statewide elections you've overseen, how would you characterize this one?

Denise Lamb: Probably about the worst ever.

Julia Goldberg: Can you talk about why?

Denise Lamb: Yes, I will talk about why. The reason this is so difficult is the country is just so extremely polarized and New Mexico is, also. The parties and all their lawyers and political operatives are working as hard as they can to get votes for their guy. And, sometimes, that's at cross purposes with the Secretary of State's idea that, first and foremost, you let people go to the polls and vote. So I think that a lot of these court cases are based in a perceived partisan advantage – by whom, I shall not say.

Julia Goldberg: How long are you going to work on Election Day?

Denise Lamb: I'll be in here at 6 am and will be here until the last county reports their results. With any luck, that will be at three or four in the morning. I typically spend the night here. There's a couch, I bring my pillow and my blankie and, if I'm lucky, I'll get a couple of hours sleep in the office. There have been elections I've been able to go home. Primary election – I got to go home for that one. It was a low turnout election. With any luck, if everyone reports and we don't have any problems, it should be over by 4 am.

Julia Goldberg: Who was the first president you voted for?

Denise Lamb: The first president I voted for? Let's see, I had to be 21 when I voted, so let's see. I'm going to have to use some math here. Whoever ran for president in 1968. That was the year Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. Whoever was running in '68, that was my first election. Who I voted for? I never say.

Julia Goldberg: Do you remember how it felt voting for the first time?

Denise Lamb: It kind of felt like the first time you could go in a liquor store and buy a beer. It's like a rite of passage. You're finally an adult. Of course, I didn't understand much about politics then, although it was a very politically polarized time in our country's history.

Inside the Black Box

This story began in November 2000 when the unthinkable happened. An election for the president of the United States occurred and the results were inconclusive. American vernacular suddenly included butterfly ballots and hanging chads, and the entire electoral process came under fire.

The terrorist events in New York on 9.11 soon overshadowed the election events in Florida. But in October 2002, after much partisan dispute, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). The law authorized nearly $4 billion in spending to help states comply with new election standards for poll-worker training, statewide voter rolls and, most importantly, the replacement of fallible punch-cards and old voting machines.

President George W Bush then signed the law. He didn't mention the 2000 election that resulted in his presidency when he did it, but he did say: "Every registered voter deserves to have confidence that the system is fair and elections are honest, that every vote is recorded and that the rules are consistently applied."

But now, with the November 2004 elections just a little more than six months away, HAVA has created a host of new and growing anxieties. Critics contend the technology employed by some electronic voting machines is not secure and that there are not enough fail-safes to ensure votes are accurately tabulated. These concerns have prompted national media attention, federal legislation and some litigation.

Ostensibly, electronic voting is an election-reform issue in which activists' concerns reflect the general belief that voting is sacrosanct and should be protected at all cost. But supporters of electronic voting maintain just as vehemently that electronic voting will create uniformity and greater access to the process for the disabled. Both sides maintain their cause champions American democracy.

At first glance, New Mexico would seem to have little to worry about. Our elections have been electronic for nearly 20 years. And while over the years there have been numerous and notorious glitches at the county level (Bernalillo, 2000, for example), our state elections officials are nationally recognized for their knowledge and expertise in this field. But in fact, New Mexico is under intense scrutiny from the leading voices of this cause.

Bev Harris is a Washington state resident and author of Black Box Voting. Black Box Voting is the term used to describe any voting system in which the mechanism recording the vote is hidden and there is no concrete record of the vote cast. Her book details the security chasms she found in several systems, as well as the potential political profiteering of the major companies responsible for creating this new technology.

Profiled in this month's Vanity Fair magazine and numerous other publications and interviewed on national shows such as Good Morning America, Harris has been called the Erin Brockovich of elections. In a recent telephone interview with SFR, Harris discussed the mobilization under way to ensure the 2004 elections receive an unprecedented level of citizen oversight. There are a handful of states considered particularly important in the clean-voting issue. New Mexico, she says, "is considered a battleground."

If New Mexico is a battleground, the organization leading the charge is Verified Voting NM. VVNM member Charlie Strauss is a Los Alamos National Laboratory computer scientist. At the lab, he's working on protein structure predictions. In life, he's become what he calls an "accidental activist" on the subject of electronic voting.

Computer scientists have helped define and lend credibility to this issue. Stanford University Professor David Dill was one of the first national computer experts to take up this cause; he served on a California task force that helped convince that state's Secretary of State to rethink the way in which California will employ e-voting.

You don't need to be a computer scientist to understand the numerous ways in which people believe technology can fail voters. You do need a perfunctory understanding of the different types of voting machines.

The ones under fire are called Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) machines. If you've voted in New Mexico, you've seen them. There's a variety of different types of DRE machines, but the basic idea is that people vote by physically touching the screen. There are no paper ballots.

Critics' concerns over these machines are numerous. Let's take four to start.

First, potential error or manipulation of voting software and/or the people who use it. Second, the protection from public viewing, by the manufacturers, of the software itself. Third, the fallibility or manipulation of the voting machines and/or the people who program them. Finally, the lack of what is called a "voter verifiable audit trail" with all voting equipment – a permanent record of each vote.

From the point of view of a computer scientist, relying too heavily on software is nave. Even a novice programmer could write code that would display votes one way on a screen and then record them in another way. "Most bugs are put in software by a single programmer," says Strauss. "It doesn't take a massive conspiracy." In addition to just plain old errors, there's a phenomenon known as "easter eggs," the term used for hidden functions in software. One of the most famous involves a spreadsheet program in which a certain – and most likely inadvertent – keystroke combination creates a flight simulation. There are examples of hidden movies and illustrations and music in software, as well as bugs, viruses and errors. Relying on hardware isn't much better. Critics say voting shouldn't require that neither machine nor man will make a mistake.

That's why if he had to settle for one thing, Strauss says, it would be the voter-verified audit. New Mexico's machines print out a total audit of the votes cast, not individual ones. "If you don't have a way to check your tallies or recount and you're using secret software, then you're dealing with blind faith," he says. "And that's not the way we conduct government. We have sunshine laws and open meetings and adversarial dialogue."

Strauss' point has been taken up by Congress. The Voter Confidence Act, sponsored by US Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) would do just that. In a recent interview with BuzzFlash, Holt said the bill was needed because people aren't voting because they now believe their vote literally doesn't count. US Rep. Tom Udall (D-NM) is a co-sponsor. "I think it's a good piece of legislation," Udall told SFR. "We need to be an example of how you run an honest election."

No one thinks Holt's bill will pass in time to make any difference in November 2004. In fact, it's unlikely there are any legislative remedies available at this point. That's why, Harris says, the possibility of legal action, such as seeking an emergency injunction to stop elections officials from purchasing any more voting machines that do not have the capability for the requested paper trail, is a real possibility. In New Mexico, she says, this option is being seriously considered.

Verified Voting NM members acknowledge litigation has been discussed, but thus far they have mostly focused their efforts on outreach: a February press conference, letters to the media and public officials and meetings with election officials throughout the state. Members of the group also met with Santa Fe County Clerk Becky Bustamante to air their concerns. In response, at the end of March, Bustamante set up a mock-election tour for the group to show them how local elections are run. A week later, she did the same for this reporter.

Live in Santa Fe for any length of time and you will inevitably have to stop by Santa Fe County's central offices on Grant Avenue. It's here you get and file your marriage license, pay your property tax and, perhaps, register to vote. It's an environment that barely feels like the 20th century and, indeed, 10 years ago the office didn't even have a fax machine.

As a result of county term limits, Bustamante will end her second and final four-year term this year. She says she supports term limits, but wishes she had one more term to finish things up in the clerk's office.

As it stands, the remainder of 2004 is going to be busy. Before becoming clerk in 1997, Bustamante held a variety of public-service positions, but the clerk's job has probably been the most high-profile. Following election problems in 1998, Bustamante says she's learned a great deal – particularly when it comes to ensuring there are checks and balances in the election process. As it stands now, she plans to run for Secretary of State in 2006.

A copy of the Vanity Fair article featuring Harris ("Hack the Vote") lies on Bustamante's desk. She says she hasn't read it yet, but plans to over the weekend. The phone rings in the office constantly. Administrative Assistant Eric Barraza sits down at a computer and quickly demonstrates how the programming process begins for an election. Programming isn't really the right word. Barraza works on a DOS system and, once into it, he's basically doing data entry. Anything you would see on a ballot: the date, the position, the names of the candidates, has a field on Barraza's screen. He enters in the information, usually with someone double-checking his work as he goes. It's time consuming, particularly for a primary election in New Mexico, where there are three major parties with a variety of contested races in different precincts. For this year's primary, there will be more than 230 ballot combinations.

Once a ballot is programmed, it's downloaded onto a cartridge. Those cartridges are assigned to specific voting machines that will be used in specific precincts. For example, if a fluke caused someone to try to download a cartridge for voters in District 3 of Santa Fe County at a precinct with District 1 voters, it wouldn't work.

The warehouse where the County's 230-plus voting machines are stored is located off south Galisteo Road. In the front, County sheriffs' cars are being serviced. In the back of the building, Voting Machine Technicians Richard Padilla and Patrick Ortiz are programming machines. Well, two of them. They are actually preparing these machines for a real election April 8 for the Pojoaque High School student council. Padilla demonstrates, from start to finish, how the machines are programmed, then does a sample vote in this race, in which only one position is contested. We print out the results. They match how Padilla voted.

When the concerns about the vulnerability of electronic voting machines to tampering are posed, Padilla looks thoughtfully at the back of the machine before locking it. "I really don't think anybody is going to try to do that to a voting machine," he says. "It's a fourth-degree felony, you know."

Bustamante believes Verified Voting NM members were reassured by seeing the process first-hand. Strauss wasn't there, but says he was told the group that went "were very impressed with her integrity, openness and the elaborate care the staff takes. But this did not relieve the concerns about machine safety and errors which are basically out of her hands despite good intentions. We should have a system that requires less blind trust and fails safely when it fails. I realize there is no perfect system – I wish the state elections office realized this too."

The check-in area for the Secretary of State's Office includes a stack of glossy photographs of Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron, the state's chief elections officer. When she appears in person carrying a plate of peanut brittle, Vigil-Giron is as glossy as her photograph and gives the impression that nothing could be more exciting than answering questions about the scrutiny her office is under from electronic-voting activists.

Of course, Vigil-Giron is no stranger to either controversy or criticism. She's wrangled in and out of court at one point or another with politicians from every major party in the state, including her own Democratic Party. When she talks about February's Democratic caucus she seems pretty close to rolling her eyes over the long lines and paper ballots that marked that party-run election.

But in a state where some elected officials are prone to not returning journalists' phone calls or refusing comment or even mumbling incoherently, Vigil-Giron, like Gov. Bill Richardson, is clearly destined for bigger things.

In her third term in office, she, like Richardson, was one of Hispanic Business Magazine's picks for the 100 most influential Hispanics in the US. She is the president-elect for the National Association of Secretaries of State, and also served on that association's task force which helped develop HAVA. She has been at the forefront in voicing the need for uniform election standards, the lack of which she believes is one of the root causes for election mishaps. Florida, she says, "had 67 jurisdictions, 67 different boards of elections doing 67 different things, purchasing their own type of voting machines – punch cards, butterfly ballot – developing their own ballots 67 times."

These days, commitment to uniformity for Vigil-Giron's office has centered largely around implementation of a HAVA-required statewide voter system in which all counties' information is centralized through her office. The end result of this system will be automated updating of voter information.

As of now, Vigil-Giron says, all but two counties are fully working in the new system. Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties are the two. (Bustamante says her staff will use both the new system and the old one, but run the roster for the November 2004 election off the old system. HAVA, she believes, requires the counties to be in the system, not to run the roster off of it. "We know ours works," she says. As for the new system, it first should be tested in a smaller election. To use it in November, she says, is "too much of a risk".)

As for the state's voting machines, there are a variety of different types of machines made by Sequoia Pacific and Election Systems and Software. Some of these have been in use for nearly 20 years. Some are the touch-screen machines; some are the Optec systems, which use an optical scanning system to scan voters' ballots.

Vigil-Giron believes the concern over electronic voting stems from national attention to systems that have less security, as well as the well-publicized political affiliations of some of the company's key personnel.

The most notorious example is Diebold Election Systems Chairman and CEO Walden O'Dell, who has helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for Bush's re-election and publicly announced his commitment to having Ohio, where Diebold is based, "deliver its electoral vote to the president next year." (O'Dell later apologized for his comments and said they were personal feelings and not connected to his company).

Diebold also has some of the most well-publicized examples of security problems, and it will not be used in New Mexico, Vigil-Giron says. As for this state's potential to have its vote hacked, "It does not exist. It will not exist," she says.

Vigil-Giron acknowledges her office's director for the Bureau of Elections, Denise Lamb, has received "voluminous" e-mails and letters and phone calls on this issue "from people who have somehow heard or been contacted that, 'oh my god, elections officials don't care about security of the voting machines'. But they're painting all the voting machines with the same brush. And they're not taking into consideration within the state of New Mexico that the way we deal with security issues is by number one, making sure those voting machines sold in the state of New Mexico are properly secure and properly programmed."

One such letter Lamb received last month included 12 questions on the state of electronic voting in New Mexico, and ended with a plea for a paper trail that could be used for recounts "to regain confidence and trust in elections."

Lamb responded with a detailed explanation of New Mexico's triple audit procedures. The voter-verified paper trail, she writes, "is a phony feel-good solution that gains nothing."

What critics want, she says, is to prove a negative – that the machines haven't failed, and that's impossible. She's not wrong. Verified Voting NM founding member Dave Kraig says he has "no reason to believe that elections haven't been running fairly. However, I am concerned because there is no way to prove that they have." The burden of proof, he believes, should be on elections officials.

"I'm not saying Rebecca Vigil-Giron and Denise Lamb are up there plotting the overthrow of this government. But at best they're being nave and at worst they're pushing this for their own agenda so they don't have to deal with paper ballots."

In her office, Lamb is candidly perplexed by the voting critics. She characterizes the Black Box Voting movement as a "left-wing conspiracy thing." She describes receiving a phone call from someone who works at Los Alamos National Laboratory saying they had questions about the security of New Mexico's voting system. "I said I'd be glad to answer them, but first I have some questions about security at our national laboratory."

Lamb is critical of the much-touted study from Johns Hopkins released last summer that critics say shows the error-prone nature of this technology. The study was flawed, she says, and the researcher sat on the board of another voting company. Lamb says she's just as inclined to question the motives of electronic-voting critics as she is of its proponents. President of the National Association of State Election Directors, Lamb is quick to point out that it is a misnomer to believe HAVA was solely a reaction to the 2000 elections. The need for advanced voting technology, she says, grew out of the needs of the disabled and minority communities. Newer machines allow the blind to vote in secret for the first time, and translate ballots into dozens of languages for US citizens who don't speak or read English. Individual voter receipts, Lamb says, could create long waits at polling places and jeopardize the equally sacrosanct secrecy of individual votes. And what's to keep someone from disingenuously claiming the machine mis-tallied their vote?

As for the activists, she says, "Let's not assume they are knights in shining armor. A lot of this is political." Is the technology fail-safe? No. The machines, after all, don't program themselves. The 67,000-vote problem in Bernalillo in 2000 that delayed New Mexico's vote was the result of human error, plain and simple. "These people fly on airplanes," Lamb says. "They have surgery. They use anesthesia. It's just everybody is afraid George Bush is going to steal the election."

Probably everybody isn't afraid Bush will steal the 2004 elections. But with national polls showing approval for the president a near 50/50 split, it's safe to say close to half of us would find it hard enough to accept a legitimate win – let alone a stolen victory. But would we even be thinking about such a thing were it not for the events in Florida in November 2000? After all, a small margin of error for human or machine only becomes unacceptable when it makes a difference.

A few minutes after a telephone interview about the origins of Verified Voting NM, one of its co-founders, Bob Stearns, calls back. Stearns' participation initially grew out of the Democrat Action Group, a committee of the Santa Fe County Democratic Party. "I just would like to make the point we don't consider this a partisan Democrat versus Republican versus Green issue," he says. "All parties want fair elections."

At first, Stearns' assurances that this is a nonpartisan issue seem hard to buy. One need only to scan the new nonfiction titles to gain a sense of where the current liberal consciousness is. Consider titles such as Bush's Brain; How Karl Rove Made Gov. Bush President; The Buying of the President 2004; The Price of Loyalty; George Bush, the White House and the Education of Paul O'Neill; The President of Good and Evil; Amy Goodman's The Exception to the Rulers; and The Book on Bush: How George W. Bush (Mis)leads America.

Pat Leahan, a member of the Las Vegas, New Mexico, group The Las Vegas Committee for Peace and Justice, also makes this point. Leahan has been an activist since George McGovern ran for president in 1972. She became interested in the electronic-voting issue a year ago after reading about two of the seminal events in the electronic-voting world. One was the surprise victory of Nebraska Republican US Senator Chuck Hagel, the former chairman of American Information Systems, the company that developed into the Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software. The other was the mid-term elections in Georgia, the first state to replace all its voting machines with DRE.

Prior to the election, the Democrat incumbent was five points ahead of the challenger. But the Republican ended up winning by seven points. Diebold company files about this Georgia election are among those Bev Harris found and downloaded off the Internet. Nothing conclusive has ever come from them – just the possibility that our votes are not safe, regardless of party affiliation.

"It's sad," Leahan says. "I used to be able to believe our government officials. Then it became, 'OK I can't believe them anymore, but we can believe people who are affiliated with our party'. Now people are saying, 'I can't believe any of them, not Democrats, not Republicans'. The sense of mistrust is so deep now and so pervasive."

No wonder so many people don't vote.

Brown Power

For the last 16 years, Jorge Ramos has anchored Noticiero Univision, winning, among other awards, seven Emmys. His newest book is The Latino Wave: How Hispanics Will Elect the Next American President, in which he argues "the future of the United States is a Hispanic one." We spoke with Ramos via telephone as he waited for his flight from New York – where he was on tour to promote his book – home to Miami.

Julia Goldberg: Your book clearly establishes Hispanics' importance in the 2004 election and beyond. How important is the coming election to the Hispanic community in terms of defining its future?

Jorge Ramos: I truly believe that Latinos will decide this election. And this is going to a very important election for Hispanics because it will show, for the first time, that we have a crucial role in the election; the 2004 vote for Latinos will empower Hispanics for the first time in history. The 2004 elections will show the rest of America that no candidate will reach the White House without the Hispanic vote.

Goldberg: You write about Cuban Americans' lack of affinity for the Democratic Party because of the Bay of Pigs and Elian Gonzales. What are the other important historical political contexts for Hispanics' relationship to the Democratic Party?

Ramos: Historically, Latinos have tended to side more with the Democratic Party than with the Republican Party – in New Mexico, in California, in Texas, in New York. Latinos felt Democrats represented more of their interests ...what I find interesting is both the Republican Party and specifically George Bush are challenging that because they argue that Latinos tend to side more with Republican Party when it comes to values – on abortion, on divorce, on homosexuality. In that sense, Latinos are very conservative, but when it comes to other issues, Latinos side more with the Democratic Party, mainly when we're talking about affirmative action or bilingual education. The last polls I've seen, the majority of Latinos will vote for the Democratic Party, but the important question has to do with percentages. If George Bush gets more than 30 percent of the Hispanic vote, he might be re-elected. Since Ronald Reagan, every Republican candidate who gets more than 30 percent wins the White House. Kerry's challenge is to get about 70 percent of the Hispanic vote – Al Gore got 67 percent.

Goldberg: You say that New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson became the most influential Hispanic politician in the country by not "exaggerating his ethnicity." What does that mean?

Ramos: Bill Richardson has said he's not a professional Hispanic, and I use that in the book. Bill Richardson understands very clearly that in order to be influential in this country you have to deal with mainstream issues and that's exactly what he has done in his political career. Bill Richardson would be a great addition to our democratic ticket if John Kerry wants to win this election. I think that Richardson could help Kerry much more than anybody else in this country. You know Latinos refer to him as Bill Richardson Lopez.

Goldberg: Can you elaborate on your theory about Hispanics' double identity?

Ramos: Latinos are different from other ethnic groups in the US, because we also identify with our country of origin, or with the country of origin of our parents. So if you were to ask me to identify myself, I would say I'm Mexican and then secondly I would say I'm a Hispanic or Latino, and I would say I'm an American. We have this double identity all the time, it's a particular characteristic of the Hispanic community.

Goldberg: You're not a US citizen, correct?

Ramos: It's a personal decision. I've been considering that for a long, long time. I haven't done it because I want to leave open the possibility of getting involved in politics in Mexico. I feel pretty much Mexican and American, living here for 20 years. Both of my children were born in this country, and I am grateful to this country because this country gave me the opportunities that Mexico couldn't.

Goldberg: There's a chapter in which you discuss the different reception Selma Hayek's performance in Frida garnered in the US versus Mexico, that ends with the statement that: "Sometimes American culture creates invisible borders." Can you elaborate on that thought?

Ramos: You cannot find Latinos in Latin America, you can only find Latinos in the United States. One out of every five Mexicans lives in the United States, one out of every three Salvadorans lives in the United States and there are many differences between those Mexicans living in the US and Mexicans living in Mexico. Selma Hayak's movie represented exactly that cultural ocean.

Goldberg: What's your view of the mainstream media's coverage of Hispanic issues and political influence?

Ramos: The kind of coverage we get about Hispanic issues and immigrant issues is very poor. In a recent year, out of 16,000 stories covered by ABC, NBC and CBS, only 99 were about Hispanics in the United States, so obviously for a population that is 14 percent of the total population, there's something wrong. That explains why Spanish-language media is growing so fast, because even about 50 percent of those who are bilingual prefer to get their news in Spanish, and they can get information they simply cannot get otherwise, news about the US, news about Mexico. The networks do not get it; they are constantly complaining they are losing viewers; but they are doing nothing substantial to attract these new viewers.

Goldberg: How will the politics of the next generation of Latinos be influenced by this generation's?

Ramos: What we're seeing in this election is that you will have 3 or 4 million voters who have never voted before in a presidential election, and that is truly amazing. The political party that controls the Hispanic vote will dominate politics in America in the future. I'm still very surprised that both political parties are not paying more attention to these new Hispanic voters who have never exercised their rights in the past because they were not US citizens or they were too young. They are going to decide this election. And it's going to be very interesting.

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