Latino voters will be a force in midterm elections, report argues
By Krissah Thompson
How potent will the immigration issue be for Latino voters in 2010?
Advocacy groups representing the community predict it will remain a "litmus test" in key mid-term races.
In a report out Monday, the immigration reform advocacy group America's Voice outlined 40 mid-term races where Hispanic voters could have a significant impact on the outcome.
"Most politicians understand the importance of the Latino vote in presidential years, but what we're saying is that Latino voters will have a huge impact in the mid-term elections," Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, said on a conference call with reporters Monday. "The number of voters coming of age and registering continues to grow. You have seen growth even when a presidential race isn't at the top of the ticket."
Nearly one in five Congressional Districts has a Latino population that is at least a quarter of the district.
The nation's fastest growing population is also one of the fastest growing parts of the American electorate, according to Census figures. Between 2000 and 2008, Latino voter registration grew 54 percent and turnout grew 64 percent. In the 2004 presidential race, 7.5 million Hispanics voted. In the 2006 midterm election, 8 million voted. And in the 2008 presidential race, 10 million cast ballots.
In its analysis, America's Voice argued that "immigration reform -- and the way the two parties' handled the congressional debates in 2006 and 2007 and in their campaigns -- was a key factor in influencing these voters' choices for political office in 2008." The majority of Latino voters supported Obama.
Sharry said polling of Latino voters shows that the Republican Party's image has been damaged by GOP lawmakers' approach to the immigration issue over the last few years, and that the vast majority of Latinos will not vote for a candidate who advocates mass deportation. But Democrats could also run the risk of alienating Latinos if immigration reform does not advance, he said.
"The president did make a promise to the Latino community and its not going to be forgotten," said National Council of La Raza President Janet Murguia of Obama's pledge to push immigration reform. "That's an important promise that we're going to hold him accountable for. But at the same time, Republicans can't just continue to say 'no' either. Our community will hold all these elected officials accountable."
Murguia said lack of movement on immigration reform could depress turnout among Hispanics in 2010, though polls show that immigration is not the top issue for Latino voters. Like most other voting blocs, Latinos are most concerned about the economy and jobs -- but Murguia said a candidate's stance on immigration reform has become an issue of baseline respect for many Latino voters.
The report by America's Voice was written, in part, to spur action from both parties on immigration reform, Sharry said.
"Certainly we were disappointed by the scant reference to immigration reform in the president's State of the Union speech, but we're still alive and the final chapter hasn't been written on immigration reform," he said. "I don't think we're prepared to write it off. We see daily activity on the inside of the White House that they have not given up themselves."
Immigration reform advocates posed a series of questions on the conference call whose answers, they said, could influence the outcome of the midterms. Will the Democrats advance comprehensive immigration reform this year as promised -- or push the issue off for the future? If they wait, will delay dampen enthusiasm for Democrats among the Latino electorate, and impact key races? Does the Republican Party embrace a more inclusive stance on immigration reform in order to compete for these voters, as some in the party have advised? Or does the GOP continue to embrace an agenda that opposes comprehensive immigration reform, ignoring the demographic and political realities of a growing electorate?
"I think people are going to be in a situation where they're saying we want change. If we didn't get it in 2008, we need to make sure we get legislators elected who'll bring change," said Eliseo Medina, executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union.
Posted by: Victoria5 | February 9, 2010 1:19 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: BrianSDCA | February 8, 2010 10:48 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: infinity555 | February 8, 2010 9:54 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: katem1 | February 8, 2010 7:54 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: thardman | February 8, 2010 7:54 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: sandynh | February 8, 2010 7:19 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: parkerfl1 | February 8, 2010 6:17 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: kevin9 | February 8, 2010 6:08 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: cleancut77 | February 8, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: mehuwss | February 8, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: DwightCollins | February 8, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: scrivener50 | February 8, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: AndiMedi | February 8, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: jeffreed | February 8, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: FedUpInMoCo | February 8, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.