Election Day: Will Cultural Pride Get Latinos To Vote?

Suzanne Gamboa, NBC News, November 4, 2014

This year’s midterm election campaigns kicked into high gear just after President Barack Obama put plans for taking executive action on immigration reform on hold, following Republican inaction on legislation.

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Fast forward to Election Day and Latino advocacy groups are feeling better about turnout as many key races are near deadlocked and as they have seen accelerated momentum in get out the vote efforts.

They fought the “Latinos are angry at Democrats over immigration” narrative by making voting an issue of cultural pride, of keeping and building clout and about making immigration reform more permanent by backing reform-friendly candidates.

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The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, NALEO, has projected 7.8 million Latinos will show up at the polls this year, an increase from 6.6 million in 2010. The increase will largely be driven by population growth, NALEO’s executive director Arturo Vargas has said.

Although many activists said the president’s delay on immigration action was part of their conversation with Latinos in their get-out-the-vote drives, others pointed out the economy, schools and other issues were what Latinos said would really drive their votes.

The activists’ anecdotes were somewhat substantiated by a Pew Research Center Hispanic Trends Project survey that found Latinos are as motivated to vote as they were in 2010.

The same survey found that while 68 percent of Latinos were aware of the president’s immigration action delay, only a third were angered or disappointed by it. The survey results seemed to diminish the potential of the Latino vote as a referendum on Obama’s immigration policy.

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From the national perspective, the attempt by the GOP to wrest control of the Senate from Democrats has been largely the focus of the 2014 elections. As a result, the Latino vote has been shrugged off as not that important because of its limited size in eight states where competitive Senate races exist.

The Latino share of the electorate breaks 10 percent in only two of those states, Colorado, 14.2 percent and Kansas, 11 percent, according to Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project. Latino voters make up less than 5 percent in the remaining six states with close Senate races: Alaska, 4.8 percent; North Carolina, 3.1 percent; Arkansas, 2.9 percent; Louisiana, 2.8 percent; Iowa, 2.7 percent and Kentucky, 1.6 percent.

It was Democratic senators from some of those states who had urged Obama to hold off on taking executive action on immigration to keep it from being a rallying point for Republican voters.

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