Some Texans predict that the “Latino giant” won’t fully flex its political might until 2012. Some say 2014. Others see the tough immigration law in Arizona moving the impact to this year. All agree that when Latinos arrive at the polls in huge numbers, the results won’t please Republicans.
“I think they know that the day is coming,” Camarillo [Lydia Camarillo is vice president of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project] said. “That’s why they are coming up with obstructions, such as voter ID laws.”
And there’s not much Republicans can do about a surging Latino electorate in the short term. Even if they appeal to more Latino voters and Hispanic turnout stays weak, the raw numbers may overwhelm them.
As Rice University political analyst Bob Stein explains, over the past three decades, Latino support for Democrats in Texas has actually fallen from 75 percent to 60 percent. But as Democrats lost 15 percentage points, they almost doubled in the number of votes received because of the explosive growth in the Latino population.
In 1980, there were 3 million Hispanics in Texas. In 2008, the total nearly reached 9 million, and projections put it at almost 10 million this year.
“One national figure that sticks out is the change in the younger-than-20 population,” Murdock [Steve Murdock, former director of the U.S. Census and now a professor at Rice University] told me. Between 2000 and 2008, the number of 20-and-younger non-Hispanic whites fell by 2.6 million, while Latinos increased by 3.8 million.”