The Importance of the Latino Vote in Future Elections

April 28, 2011 04:15

No matter how you spin it, the number of Latinos who voted in November 2010 is of enormous importance to future election results. It is a relatively young population and represents the fastest growing minority in the nation.

The Americano

No matter how you spin it, the number of Latinos who voted in November 2010 is of enormous importance to future election results. It is a relatively young population and represents the fastest growing minority in the nation.

All in all, Latinos are a formidable force in electoral politics for many years to come.

Yet the 6.6 million Latinos who voted in November 2010, according to a study released Tuesday by the Pew Hispanic Center, more than ever before in any mid-term election, was seen in contrasting ways by The Washington Post reporter and its headline writer.

The reporter, as did the story by the Associated Press, stressed that the number of Latinos who voted in November of 2010 was a million higher than those who had turned out at the polls four years earlier. Yet the headline writer saw the other side of the story; not how many Latinos and Asians had voted, but how a majority of Latinos and Asians did not vote two years ago.

The Pew Hispanic Center study found that as a share of the electorate, Latinos made up 6.9 percent of the 96 million voters in 2010, up from 5.8 percent of the 96.1 million voters four years earlier. It added that most of them voted for the Democratic Party.

According to the study among those voters were 600,000 Latinos who turned 18 each year between 2006 and 2010 as well as 1.4 million foreign-born adult Latinos who became U.S. citizens and therefore eligible to vote.

“A lot of that growth is driven by U.S.-born young people who are coming of age and now (are) eligible to vote,” said Mark Lopez, Pew Hispanic Center associate director. He added that although the number of Latino voters had grown by one million between 2006 and 2010, the number of Latinos eligible to vote grew much faster, from 17.3 million to 21.3 million.

As a result, the gap between potential and actual Latino voters grew by 3.1 million in 2010 and voter turnout among Hispanics continues to lag far behind non-Hispanic whites and blacks.

Almost half of eligible white voters, 48.6 percent, and 44 percent of eligible black voters said they cast ballots in the 2010 elections. That compares to less than a third — 31.2 percent — of eligible Latino voters who said they voted. The gap is similar between whites and Hispanics who vote in presidential elections.

The Washington Post story also highlights that the Latino voting picture is not all bright and shiny for Democrats. It says that the snapshot study of minority voting comes on the heels of a poll showing that support for President Obama among Latinos is down by more than 25 percentage points compared with the start of his administration — cause for serious concern among Democrats.

The reason is obvious; the difference between what candidate Obama said about immigration reform and what the Obama administration is doing with undocumented workers it finds in the country.

Candidate Obama promised passage of comprehensive immigration reform law in his first year in office. He is going on three and still the issue as a whole has not come up for a vote in Congress, which prior to Republicans gaining control of the House of Representatives, was in complete control of Democrats.

Furthermore, as president, the Obama administration has deported more undocumented immigrants than any other administration. The criticism does not come from Republicans. It comes from Democrats and from Latino grass roots organizations.

“You can’t say during a campaign, ‘A child should not be taken from her mother’s arms’ and ‘Children should not come home to find their parents have been taken away by immigration officials,’ and then conduct one of the most massive deportations of immigrants in the history of the country,” Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-Ill.) told The Washington Post. He blamed Obama’s immigration stance for lackluster turnout among Latinos.

The administration is on track to deport more undocumented immigrants than any previous administration — Republican or Democrat — in history, the story added.

His position is nuanced, legalistic; difficult to defend.

Obama says that he supports an immigration overhaul and has called on Congress to act. In the meantime, he has said, he is obliged to enforce the immigration laws on the books.

But Republicans and Democrats are deeply divided, and reform is unlikely in the remaining two years of Obama’s term. According to the Washington Post, recognizing that legislative action was unlikely anytime soon, 22 senators wrote to Obama this month asking him to use his executive powers to stop deportations of undocumented students.

Several Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (Calif.) were reelected last year with strong Latino support, but on the whole, GOP candidates fared better than expected among Latino voters, the Post story said. That was especially true of Latino GOP candidates.

“During the November 2010 midterm elections, the Republican Party had historic levels of Hispanic support,” said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. “In fact, exit polls showed that 38 percent of Hispanic voters cast ballots for House Republican candidates. This is more than in 2008 and 2006. .?.?. All five Hispanics elected to Congress in 2010 were Republicans.”

Smith said that calls for strong border protection and enforcement had played well in Florida, Mexico and Nevada, including with Latino voters. “This is a good trend for the GOP,” he said.

Finally, the study also found that there are differences in voter turnout rates among Latino eligible voters. In 2010, Latino college graduates had the highest voter turnout rate (50.3%) among Latino eligible voters, while young Latinos ages 18 to 29 had the lowest (17.6%).

Differences in participation rates also exist by country of origin.  Nearly half (49.3%) of Cuban-origin Latinos voted in 2010; compared with 29.6% of Puerto Rican-origin Latinos and 28.7% of Mexican-origin Latinos.  Similarly, a greater share of naturalized foreign-born Latinos than native born Latinos voted — 36.6% versus 29.2%.

The voters are there.

Now it is up to the parties to motivate them to register to vote and then go to the polls.

The Americano/Agencies

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