Election 2012: Latino Voters Carry Clout, but Will They Show?

35th ward Alderman Rey Colon
35th Ward Alderman Rey Colon. (Photo by Zoe Barker)

Infographic: Latino voting statistics.

By Zoe Barker and Vince Floress
The Red Line Project

Posted: Friday, Nov. 2, 2012

They’re the fastest growing demographic in the country. There are 50.5 million of them living here according to the 2010 U.S. Census data. Their population increased by 43 percent in only 10 years. But they have one of the lowest voter turnout rates for elections.

A Pew Hispanic Center report reported that “a record 23.7 million Latinos are eligible to vote Nov. 6, but that the turnout rate for the group in 2008 – 50 percent – was lower than that of black voters (65 percent) and white voters (66 percent).”

Chicago in particular sees low Latino voter turnouts even in the highest Latino-populated wards.

In a story on extranews.net, Laura Lindstrom explained that the 12th and 22nd Wards in Chicago have the highest Latino populations, but also have the lowest numbers of registered voters.

In the November 2010 general elections, voter turnout among registered voters in the 12th Ward (Brighton Park, Back of the Yards and Little Village) and 22nd Ward (Little Village) was just below 33 percent each. What is most interesting is that it is significantly lower than the Chicago-wide average of 52.9 percent, according to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

In the 35th Ward (Logan Square, Humboldt Park), which also has a large Latino population, Ald. Rey Colon and his office help residents with voter registration and work to remind people to go vote.

“[I] think there’s been a lot of voter suppression that is taking place around the United States,” said Colon. “Recently in Ohio there will billboards plastered around telling people if they vote it’s a felony or there’s a $10,000 fine for voting in majority Hispanic communities.”

To combat these problems and misconceptions, many Latino organizations around the city lead voter registration drives and offer to help Latino Chicagoans with questions and getting to the polls. One of these organizations at DePaul University is D.A.L.E., the DePaul Alliance for Latino Empowerment.

D.A.L.E.’s president is Evelyn Brito.

DePaul student and president of D.A.L.E. Evelyn Brito

DePaul student and president of the D.A.L.E.
group, Evelyn Brito. (Photo by Zoe Barker)

“We did voter registration during the involvement fair and during our first few meetings so we had time to turn them in,” said Brito. “We did get about 100 voter registrations and the website I work with, Logan Square Neighborhood Association, got over 1,200 voter registrations.”

According to CNN’s Political Ticker blog, the economy (44 percent) is the most important issue, and immigration and education (both 14 percent) are the next two most important issues among Latino voters.

Brito agreed, adding that the economy, education, and social issues matter most to herself and the other Latinos she talks to about politics. She also noted that there is a difference between the issues she feels are important and the ones that matter most to older people in the Latino community.

“I think there is a major disconnect between my generation and my parents generation,” Brito said. “I think my generation cares more about a wide range of issues and my parent’s generation cares more about social issues.”

Colon explained that the Latino community cares about issues like the economy just like any other demographic in America.

“Even though we’re painted as Democrats, we’re very open to not being Democrats. Latinos are more drawn to leadership and personality than we are towards party affiliation,” said Colon.

According to a CNN poll from early October, Obama was polling at 70 percent of likely Latino voters. This is “slightly higher than the 67 percent of Latinos who voted for him in 2008,” a CNN article citing the poll explained.

This is likely because of Obama’s policy shift with immigration reform. Though immigration policy is not their top issue, it is still something that is important to Latinos.

“Obama has been criticized for having the highest number of deportations among any president,” Colon said.

Brito noted this as well, but said that overall she thinks Obama is seen as more “immigrant friendly” than Romney.

A report by Politifact explained that current figures from Immigration and Customs Enforcement show that Obama has deported 1.4 million people so far during his term. The same report noted that this number is lower than former president George W. Bush’s, but also noted that it was over the span of his two terms and Obama has only had one.

President Obama and his campaign have worked publically to get the Latino vote and are confident that they have secured it.

“The second thing I’m confident we’ll get done next year is immigration reform,” Obama said in an interview with the Des Moines Register.“ … Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community. And this is a relatively new phenomenon.”

A recent poll done by Latino Decisions concludes what many polls are finding that President Obama has a 52-point lead among Latino voters nationally.

It gets closer for the president when breaking down the key swing-state of Florida where he holds a 51-47 percentage point lead over Romney among Latino voters.

This could be one of the most important demographics in the 2012 election as both President Obama and Governor Romney continue to fight tooth and nail for the Oval Office.

Latino Voters Infographic

Infographic by Zoe Barker

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