Immigration Reform Could Be Bonanza for Democrats

Emily Schultheis, Politico, April 22, 2013

The immigration proposal pending in Congress would transform the nation’s political landscape for a generation or more — pumping as many as 11 million new Hispanic voters into the electorate a decade from now in ways that, if current trends hold, would produce an electoral bonanza for Democrats and cripple Republican prospects in many states they now win easily.

Beneath the philosophical debates about amnesty and border security, there are brass-tacks partisan calculations driving the thinking of lawmakers in both parties over comprehensive immigration reform, which in its current form offers a pathway to citizenship—and full voting rights—for a group of undocumented residents that roughly equals the population of Ohio, the nation’s seventh-largest state.

If these people had been on the voting rolls in 2012 and voted along the same lines as other Hispanic voters did last fall, President Barack Obama’s relatively narrow victory last fall would have been considerably wider, a POLITICO analysis showed.

Key swing states that Obama fought tooth and nail to win—like Florida, Colorado and Nevada—would have been comfortably in his column. And the president would have come very close to winning Arizona.

Republican Mitt Romney, by contrast, would have lost the national popular vote by 7 percentage points, 53 percent to 46 percent, instead of the 4-point margin he lost by in 2012, and would have struggled even to stay competitive in GOP strongholds like Texas, which he won with 57 percent of the vote.

The analysis is based on U.S. Census and Pew Research Center estimates of illegal immigrant populations by state, and presidential exit polls showing how Obama and Romney performed among Latinos.

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To illustrate the potential voting shifts once immigrants are able to vote, look at Texas, Arizona and Georgia. The total undocumented immigrant population in each of those states exceeds Romney’s margin of victory.

Texas, where the unauthorized immigrant population is second only to California’s, had an estimated 1.65 million undocumented immigrants in 2010, according to statistics from the Pew Hispanic Center. Romney won the state in 2012 by just under 1.3 million votes.

In Arizona, Romney won by 212,000 votes — and there are an estimated 400,000 undocumented immigrants in the state as of 2010.

Even Georgia, which isn’t a border state and doesn’t immediately come to mind when thinking of immigrant-heavy states, would be affected: Georgia had an estimated 425,000 undocumented immigrants in 2010, per Pew Hispanic Center’s estimates, and Romney won there by 308,000 votes.

If all those immigrants had voted in 2012 and President Obama had won 71 percent of them—the percentage he won among Latinos nationally—he would have come in less than 50,000 votes short in Arizona, within about a half-million votes of winning Texas and 125,000 votes shy in Georgia.

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