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Latino population growth to have political impact after Census

By Ed O'Keefe

The chart above shows the potential impact of Latinos on Congressional reapportionment (Image courtesy of America's Voice Education Fund)

The nation's growing Latino population is likely to help eight states gain at least one more Congressional seat following the 2010 Census, according to a study released Tuesday. States expected to lose seats would fare much worse if Latinos had not moved there in record numbers.

Census projections published in the study estimate that Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas and Utah will gain seats. Of those, only Georgia and Utah will likely gain their seats without Latino growth, according to the study, published by the immigration reform group America's Voice Education Fund with assistance from the think tank NDN, which has several programs focused on Hispanic issues.

The study estimates that Texas will likely gain four seats and Arizona will earn two, while the others will each gain one. Ohio would lose two seats and Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania would each lose one.

Latino population growth in the eight states expected to gain seats has topped at least 25 percent, with Hispanics accounting for 63 percent of the growth in Texas and 49.5 percent of the jump in Florida. Nationwide, Latinos accounted for 51 percent of U.S. population growth since 2000, according to the Census Bureau.

The study's authors note that most of the gains come in traditionally red or purple states as Latinos move beyond the nation's largest cities into smaller, rural communities.

"I think it poses a real challenge for the Republican Party," said Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice. While George W. Bush ran an effective Latino outreach campaign during his 2004 reelection campaign, the increased use and support of anti-immigrant rhetoric and legislation has hurt the party's ability to attract Latino voters now moving into Red districts, he said.

"This is going to set up a very interesting dynamic, because right now, the kind of bleached districts where candidates can get away with demonizing Latino immigrants -- because they're more worried about a primary challenge than a general election loss -- may end in the next decade," Sharry said.

None of the projected congressional gains will happen, however, until people are officially counted during next year's Census, said Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. He's concerned that the Census Bureau will undercount minority populations, especially as nonprofits, states and cities drastically cut back their efforts to raise awareness about the count.

Vargas also blasted Latino clergy leaders who have called for a boycott of the 2010 Census, calling such actions, "the most irresponsible, immoral thing to do."

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By Ed O'Keefe  | November 17, 2009; 4:31 PM ET
Categories:  Census, Congress  
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