Latino turnout squanders chance at being key voting bloc

at 08:42 AM ET, 04/27/2011

Latinos are growing faster than any other major population group in the United States, but they still aren’t a major factor in U.S. elections.

At least, yet.

A new Pew Hispanic Center review of Census data and 2010 turnout shows that in the last election, even though 16.3 percent of the country’s population was Latino, just 7 percent of voters were.

This is largely, of course, because of the large amounts of Latinos who are under 18 (35 percent, according to the survey) and who aren’t citizens (22 percent). But even among those who are eligible to vote, Latinos lag far behind.

Just 31.2 percent of eligible Latino voters cast ballots in the 2010 election, compared with 48.6 percent of whites and 44 percent of African Americans.

Clearly, the Latino community is vastly under-represented in the electorate. And that’s a sore spot for Latino leaders — especially given that the community that could draw plenty of attention from both parties as a swing voting bloc.

Swing voters, put simply, get politicians’ attention. And Latino leaders acknowledge that they aren’t getting the attention they could be given their potential impact.

Although black voters vote almost exclusively Democratic, Latino voters are very accessible for Republicans. And there’s plenty of evidence.

A full 44 percent of Latinos voted Republican in the 2004 election. That figure dropped to about 30 percent in both 2006 and 2008 — two big Democratic years — before rising back to 38 percent in 2010.

The good news for Latino leaders is that, even if Latinos don’t increase their turnout numbers, their share of the electorate is going to continue to grow apace.

The Latino population is very young, even among eligible voters. Nearly one-third of Latino eligible voters are under 30 — typically the age group that votes the least.

And another 600,000 Latinos turn 18 every year, adding rapidly to the 21.3 million eligible Latino voters.

“The size of the eligible electorate is growing as fast or faster than the actual voters,” said Arturo Vargas, at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. “So we have our work cut out for us.”

Older Latinos still vote far less than their white counterparts, but they do vote more than younger Latinos. And as the population grows and ages, Latinos should become a very important voting bloc in future elections.

Just maybe not as important as they could be — or as quickly.

Boehner’s distance on Ryan budget?: House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) office says he’s not distancing himself from House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget proposal, despite comments that seemed to suggest just that.

ABC News’s Rick Klein wrote Tuesday that Boehner appeared to be putting some space between himself and Ryan. Boehner said Ryan’s proposal was “an idea” and that he was “not wedded to one idea.”

But Boehner’s team then clarified that he “strongly supports” Ryan’s plan.

Democrats have been trying to get mileage from attacking the Ryan budget for its Medicare reforms, including launching a series of ads.

Hasner makes it official: Adam Hasner has stopped exploring a Senate bid and launched an official campaign. The Republican former Florida state representative announced his bid again Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) with a video on his Web site that blames both Republicans and Democrats for the country’s fiscal problems.

Hasner left the state House last year after four terms. He joins state Senate President Mike Haridopolos and former senator George LeMieux in the Republican primary to take on Nelson next year. Both those candidates have a lot of baggage, and many conservatives see Hasner as a fresh face. He’s doing his best to tie himself to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), another former state House legislator and relative unknown who ricocheted to national fame.

Rick Berg for Senate?: Most big-name Republicans and GOP state legislators in North Dakota have signed their names to a letter urging freshman Rep. Rick Berg (R-N.D.) to run for the state’s open Senate seat.

The letter is a strong indicator that Berg will, in fact, run for the seat. These sorts of things generally precede a candidate deciding to run.

Among the notable signatories is state Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, who was also considered a potential candidate.

The timing is interesting, given that Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk just announced he will run. Kalk’s two fellow Public Service Commissioners also signed the letter urging Berg to run.

Berg earned plaudits during his victory over longtime incumbent Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.), and despite his short time in the House, his name has quickly risen to the top among potential candidates for retiring Sen. Kent Conrad’s (D-N.D.) seat.

Another governor feels the heat: Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) is the latest new governor to have his electoral honeymoon stolen from him thanks to budget problems.

According to a new Quinnipiac poll, Corbett’s disapproval has shot up from 11 percent in February to 37 percent now. He still gets more people to approve of his job than disapprove, but that might not last long.

That’s because, by a margin of 50 percent to 39 percent, voters in the Keystone State say Corbett’s budget proposals are unfair to people like them.

For now, though, being above-water is more than many budget-cutting governors can say.

Emily’s List dips toe in: The powerful Democratic fundraising group Emily’s List has gotten into some congressional races — sort of.

The group has launched a new campaign called “On the List,” as a way to urge its members to contribute to certain candidates without fully committing the group’s resources to that candidate so early in the cycle.

They’re encouraging people to donate to these four candidates: Lois Frankel (running against Florida Republican Allen West), former representative Ann Kirkpatrick (running against Arizona Republican Paul Gosar), Ann McLane Kuster (running against New Hampshire Republican Charlie Bass), and Christie Vilsack (running against Iowa Republican Steve King).

They expect that all four will get a full endorsement from the group later on, but they aren’t yet bundling money or putting their own funds into these races.

Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock said in a statement: “2012 is shaping up to be a huge year for women candidates. ‘On the List’ provides us with a way to get in faster and introduce our members to these great candidates right away.”

Fixbits:

Sarah Palin isn’t crying for outgoing CBS News anchor Katie Couric, saying of her departure: “Yeah, I think I read that in a newspaper, one of many newspapers that I read … online.” Couric famously pressed Palin on what newspapers she read during the 2008 presidential campaign, with Palin offering a tortured response that failed to provide specific papers.

President Obama will tape an episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” today.

For those who had any doubt, David Petraeus’s reported appointment as CIA director pretty much nixes any possible presidential run in 2012.

Asheville City Council member Cecil Bothwell, who was initially going to challenge Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) from the left as an independent, now says he will challenge the Blue Dog Democrat in the primary.

The top lobbyist at the Chamber of Commerce says the powerful business group will “not tolerate” an as-yet-announced White House plan to force government contractors to disclose their political donations.

Just as Nevada Republicans found that the state special election law called for candidates picked by committees, Nevada Democrats have found that it calls for a free-for-all.

Sharron Angle denies a report that she thought about running as an independent in that special election if she doesn’t get the GOP nomination.

Must-reads:

Could Ron Paul 2012 beat Ron Paul 2008?” — Michael D. Shear, New York Times

In Florida and nationally, Republicans can’t find any giant-killers for 2012 races” — Adam C. Smith, St. Petersburg Times

Obama expected to announce national security team changes this week” — Karen DeYoung, Washington Post

From gulf spills to White House frills, Trump has it covered” — Al Kamen, Washington Post

 
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