Latino Voter Turnout Likely Down in 2014, but Immigration Reform Will Still Affect Results
Latino voters have increasingly become an influential part of the electorate. In 2012, they demonstrated they were a force to be reckoned with after overwhelmingly voting President Obama back into office.
Exit polls conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center found that 71 percent of Latinos voted for Obama during the last election, whereas only 27 percent voted for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
While Latino voters are not expected to come out in such high numbers this November for the midterm elections, they will continue to have a large stake in the outcome, especially in regards to immigration reform.
"I think if we think about the political dynamics going into the 2014 elections with respects to immigration reform, it's very reminiscent of 2012," Center for American Progress policy analyst Patrick Oakford told Latin Post.
In June, President Obama announced he would take administrative action to fix the nation's broken immigration system. During his announcement, Obama blamed House Republicans for refusing to take up the bipartisan immigration reform bill the Senate passed in 2013.
The GOP has taken on the role of the anti-immigration party, which has caused the alienation of Latino voters. Last week, Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, introduced legislation that would not only end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals order, but also speed up the deportations of DREAMers.
"So if we think about this, this is like a dance we've seen before," Oakford said. "I think we all know how it ends. In 2012, Latinos came about with large support for Democrats and President Obama and very much brought the win for the president in key states like Colorado and Virginia. Now, going in 2014, I think that Latino voters find themselves in a similar situation."
Still, Oakford contends that Latino voters will not be as influential during these elections as they were in 2012. He said that Latino voters are "very much invested in immigration reform" and "paying very close attention to the immigration debate," but because they are not a larger share of the electorate in many congressional districts as they are in statewide and national elections, they will not have the "potential to influence elections like they did in 2012."
However, they will play a big role in some states. "Colorado has one of the fastest growing Latino electorates in the United States, and a lot of the races right now in Colorado are really close. So the Latino vote will matter," Oakford said.
The policy analyst said Latinos will particularly be influential in Colorado 6th District, where incumbent Republican Congressman Mike Coffman will face off against Democrat Andrew Romanoff. "It's a really close election. Mike Coffman narrowly won his previous election, and Latinos are going to be crucial to that," Oakford said.
After the midterm elections, Latino voting influence will continue to rise, and how they vote will be affected by the status of immigration reform.
"I think there's a lot to look forward to in terms of immigration reform beyond 2014 and going into the 2016 elections," Oakford said. "I think where things stand right now, immigration reform will be a central and big issue leading up to the 2016 election. I think that Republicans are backing themselves up into a corner that they don't want to be in."
He continued, "In the wake of the 2012 elections, Republicans and pundits identified that if the GOP wants to be a viable party in the future, they need to be able to reach out to Latino voters, and they need to deal with immigration reform. In the time since the election, we haven't seen Republicans really do any of that in any meaningful way."
According to Oakford, the GOP has isolated the Latino electorate, even more than they did during the last presidential election.
"I think that if Speaker Boehner right now isn't taking up immigration reform, the politics of next year won't make it any easier for him to do so," Oakford said. "So while they may use it as a great talking point to say, 'Let us just wait until next year,' I don't think that is that likely, and more importantly even if they do take up immigration reform next year, I think the Latino electorate and all Americans will remember that the United States had to wait far too long for reform to pass."
In a recent report released by the Center for American Progress, approximately 3.3 million Latino voters will become eligible to vote between 2012 and 2016. Of those, about 60 percent come from immigrant households, Oakford said. This fact will be crucial when these new voters head out to the polls.
"They have lived and experienced the negative impacts our immigration system has on families, and they are going to remember that when they step in and vote for the very first time," Oakford said.
He added, "I think that a lot of the inaction Republicans have taken this past year will kind of cement the outcomes of the 2016 elections and make winning back the White House extremely difficult."