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Arizona Latinos Honor MLK Legacy Through Voter Registration

PHOENIX, AZ -- On Monday, as the nation observed Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Latino leaders in Arizona reflected on the civil rights leader's legacy and sought to promote the message that voting is a civil rights issue.

"Every citizen in the United States gets to participate in some way in the voting process, and when you've got laws that oppress voters, that make it hard for people to vote or that make it confusing for people to vote, that is a violation of their civil rights," said Petra Falcon, executive director of non-profit organization Promise Arizona.

On Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, as the nation commemorated Martin Luther King, Jr., hundreds of mostly young people in Phoenix attended a summit where they learned how they can get involved in this year's election. Griselda Nevarez

Falcon's group is part of One Arizona, a coalition of nonprofit groups working to increase voter participation primarily among Latinos.

Arizona has the nation's fifth largest Hispanic statewide eligible voter population, there are about 902,000 Latinos living in Arizona who are eligible to vote, according to the Pew Research Center.

The coalition held a one-day summit Monday at Carl Hayden High School in Phoenix to kick off its voter registration efforts.

Hundreds of mostly high school and college students gathered for the summit, which consisted of trainings, panels and workshops. Following the event, participants went door-to-door in predominantly Latino neighborhoods registering people to vote.

A workshop to teach young people how they can help register others to vote was part of Monday's summit. Griselda Nevarez

"Today we're marking Martin Luther King Jr. Day through our movement and making sure Latinos and other minorities are engaged in the decision making process," said Raquel Teran, the Arizona director for Mi Familia Vota. "That's the best way that we feel we can honor him."

"We know that we can organize marches and rallies—we're going to do that too—but we also want to make sure we're building political power," Teran added.

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