Editor’s note: Alberto R. Gonzales is the former U.S. attorney general and counsel to President George W. Bush. He is currently the Doyle Rogers Distinguished Chair of Law at Belmont University, and counsel at the Nashville law firm of Waller Lansden.
By Alberto R. Gonzales, Special to CNN
The right to vote is a precious privilege.
It provides the opportunity for every citizen to equally affect the future of our government no matter their last name, ZIP code or skin color.
It was my job as attorney general to protect the sanctity of every vote.
Based on my experience, voter identification laws serve as an effective deterrent to fraudulent voting.
I know there are concerns that such laws discourage voting and hurt minorities.
However, we should not abandon our efforts against voter fraud.
Instead, those concerns are best addressed by vigorous enforcement of existing federal regulations and laws, such as the Voting Rights Act, which provide protections against government actions that adversely affect the voting rights of minorities.
I condemn laws that discriminate based on race, and I support reasonable voter identification laws.
At the end of the day, I want to see more Americans voting, and states able to easily facilitate the right to vote.
The Hispanic vote is important in this election and future elections, and from my view, it is not voter ID laws that will prevent them from voting for President Barack Obama but his economic policies.
I grew up in an impoverished neighborhood where families took care of their own and believed government assistance was only for the most needy – those who could not help themselves.
We were poor but not helpless, We viewed ourselves as proud, self-reliant Americans.
Just like my parents, many Hispanic families today are struggling just to buy food and gas and pay the rent.
Their focus is not yet on the presidential race because they have real concerns that are more pressing.
For this reason, I do not think the polls accurately reflect Hispanic support for Obama and believe that support will drop as we approach the election.
Despite what the polls may say, many of my Hispanic friends –who are not politically active but identify as Republican or Democrat – privately confess their concerns about both men.
In Obama, they see a gifted president who is able to identify with their struggles and give voice to the powerless, someone who has lived the American dream they wish for themselves and their children.
They also see a man who broke his promise to them about immigration reform and someone who champions social policies at odds with religious teaching, such as his recent support for same-sex marriage.
As the election season approaches, more Hispanics will evaluate their economic situation and ask themselves whether they are better off than they were four years ago, and whether the president is capable of delivering on his promises and can be trusted to help them achieve their dreams.
This is potentially good news for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney because it means he still has time.
In Romney, Hispanics tell me they see a successful businessman and experienced chief executive who inspires hope with a positive message, someone who has created jobs and understands the details of economic policy. They see the kind of leader America needs in our current economic plight.
They also see a man who is rich and white, someone incapable of understanding what it is to struggle or to want, and unfamiliar with the pain of racial discrimination.
But it remains to be seen whether Romney can make a personal connection and convince Hispanic voters that he relates to their problems, cares about their future and can create an environment of opportunity for all Americans.
College students tell me they intend to support Obama because they view him as a contemporary, someone who is cool and at ease with technology and late-night talk show hosts.
He is a role model and source of excitement.
Other students approaching graduation are not as supportive. They will soon enter the job market with few, if any, job prospects and staggering student debt.
For them, a successful businessman like Romney might succeed in creating jobs where the president has failed.
Hispanics are extraordinarily diverse, and the choice we make on Election Day will be a very personal one.
Like all voters, Hispanics will vote their self-interests and vote for their future.
That choice has the power to elect the next president.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Alberto R. Gonzales.