The Latino population in the United States is a growing demographic with significant decision making power in this year's midterm elections. While immigration reform is on the mind of many Latino voters, the country's economic conditions, access to health care, quality education, job security and other factors are expected to influence Latino voters as well.
Latinos are expected to be the deciding factor in many states.
Latino Voting Power in Numbers
While the U.S. Southwest is regularly associated with large Latino enclaves, the recent census showed that Latino populations are growing across the United States, particularly in the Southeast and Midwest. In 12 states, among them Colorado, Kansas, Alaska, Georgia, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Iowa, Latino eligible voters are larger than the current polling margin between state candidates. A record number of Latinos are also eligible to vote this year according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center.
While the Republicans are expected to maintain a majority in the House of Representatives with or without the Latino vote, analysts estimate that Latino voters will be essential in the Senate's close races across the country.
Over the last decade, Latino registered voters have grown by more than 400 percent in several states such as Georgia and Kansas. The number of voters who were immigrants or U.S. born children of immigrants has also risen by 143 percent since 1996. Likewise, approximately 70,000 Latino adolescents turn 18 every month.
In states such as Colorado, Latinos make up 15 percent of all eligible voters. An estimated 14 percent of 310,000 residents in the state's capital of Boulder are Latino according to the U.S. Census Bureau. As such, voter registration efforts are underway to encourage Latino voters and to endorse the election of candidates that favor immigration reform. In 2012, more than half of Colorado's eligible Latino voters were registered and more than two thirds of those voted.
However, despite high voter turnout among Latinos in recent elections, the Pew Research Center estimates that their turnout will remain lower than that of other voter electorates. In 2010, nearly seven million Latinos voted, representing 31.2 percent of eligible Latino voters. This percentage compares to 44 percent of eligible Black voters and 48.6 percent of white people.
Disappointment Leading up to Tuesday's Elections
While it is difficult to determine turnout in a midterm election, the Pew Research Center's recent study suggests that it may be challenging to motivate Latino voters this year. In the U.S. bipartisan heavy model, Democrats and Republicans have largely ignored Latino voters and have left much to be desired in terms of much needed political and economic reforms.
President Barack Obama's decision to delay action in immigration reform may leave long lasting consequences in Tuesday's elections. Obama, dubbed “deporter in chief,” has overseen the deportation of more than two million people since taking office in 2009. The delay on immigration reform translates to more than 1,000 deportations daily. Latino voters were crucial to Obama's re-election in 2012, however the failure to keep his promises of 'change' has stretched thin the hope that voters may have had.
However, the Pew Research Center's recent study suggests that Democrats are still more popular with Latino voters. The report estimates that 57 percent of registered Latino voters support Democratic candidates in their congressional district. Though more than half, this number has dwindled by eight percent since 2010. Meanwhile, Republicans have earned a six percent gain in Latino voters since 2010.
However, while Latino voters are a growing electorate, their potential to make significant political shifts in the United States is stunted by the U.S. two party system that makes their vote another token in the Democrat and Republican's vie for power.