LatinaLista — If one thing is clear from a new report released today by America’s Voice entitled The Power of the Latino Vote in America: They Tipped Elections in 2008; Where Will They Be in 2010? it’s that no political party should underestimate the power of the Latino vote.
According to the study, from 2000 to 2008, Latino voter registration grew 54% and turnout grew by 64%. There is documentation that it was with the help of Latino voters that Obama won the election.
In battleground states such as Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, and Nevada, 2008’s increased Latino turnout and the Latino electorate’s break towards Democrats were major factors in Barack Obama’s victories and in Democratic House and Senate pick-ups:
In Florida, for example, Latino voters grew by 403,000, or 49%, compared to 2004, and backed Obama by a 57-42% margin after having backed Bush by a 56-44% margin in 2004.
The study points to the fact that in precincts across the country Latino voters are poised to be the swing voters many candidates will need to land in office.
Though the study shows that Latino voters trend Democratic, there’s no guarantee that it will remain so, especially if the Democratic party fails to honor campaign promises made to the Latino community.
The amount of Latino support boils down to three things:
1. The level of engagement the candidate has with their local Latino community.
2. The level of engagement the state party has with local Latino communities.
3. The language of that engagement.
For English-dominant Latinos, politicians speaking in Spanish, especially if they are not native speakers, is considered insulting by many. However, as the study points out, addressing in Spanish those Latino voters who are Spanish-dominant is the key to reaching a segment of the Latino voters considered the new swing voters.
In 2004, Republican strategist Karl Rove and President George W. Bush recognized that Spanish-dominant Latino voters — slightly less than half of the overall Latino electorate — were a potent audience for GOP political appeals.
Most of these voters are foreign-born, naturalized U.S. citizens, and the Republican emphasis on “family values” resonated with many of them. According to NDN, the GOP more than doubled its share of the Latino vote from 1996 to 2004 by prioritizing outreach to Spanish-dominant Latinos.
However, this same group while still being somewhat more conservative than US-born Latinos, are also the majority of Latino voters now driving the issue for immigration reform. In that regard, these voters find themselves in conflict with the GOP’s current platform on how to treat undocumented immigrants while agreeing with most of the party’s ideals.
While this report was supposed to provide insight to those on the outside looking in at Latino voters, it’s the Latino voters who should take this report to heart.
What’s obvious is that Latino voters have the voting power to significantly impact a number of upcoming races across the country, and overall in any national election. For too long, Latino voters have felt ignored to the extent that unless politicians or parties specifically reached out there was no political will to exercise the power to vote.
With this newly discovered voting strength, it’s time Latino voters looked past perceived and/or real hurts and insults and got into the habit of exercising civic participation. Latino voters can no longer afford to wait to be invited.
This is one party where it is a standing invitation to participate and the sooner that is realized, the better for Latino voters.