Latino vote could fall with drop in Hispanic voter registration

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    Brian Conklin, far right, a regional campaign director for the reelection of President Barack Obama, briefs volunteers June 29 about registering new voters prior to them canvassing a heavily Latino neighborhood in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

    Despite all the attention paid to what is presented as a potentially historic, decisive and record-breaking Latino vote, the historic Time magazine Yo Decido cover, a proliferation of voter registration drives across the country and celebrities like Rosario Dawson and America Ferrera urging fans to have their voices heard, several recent indicators show that the Hispanic factor in the 2012 election may not turn out to be all that.

    Most recent among those is a report that finds Hispanic voter registration could be at the lowest rates since 1992.

    The Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP) counted voters with Spanish surnames in 10 key states and reported the lowest growth rate for Latinos in at least two decades, according to HispanicBusiness.com. Chosen for their high Hispanic populations, the ten states – which include Arizona, California, Texas and Florida — together account for almost three quarters of the national Latino vote.

    Experts and Hispanic leaders had first predicted 11 to 12 million Latino voters in the presidential election, but some have scaled down those expectations or, at least, stopped sounding it from the rooftops after the U.S. Census’ Current Population Survey on Voting and Registration in 2010 report last month showed a decrease in the demographic for the first time in 10 years.

    Some political observers blame the economy and the foreclosure crisis, which has hit minorities disproportionately. Others say that involvement in the race, including interest from the Hispanic community, simply fails to reach 2008 levels.

    While Latino registration rates rose by almost 24 percent in the election cycle from 2000 to 2004, and almost 25 percent from 2004 to 2008, it has jumped less than 10 percent — from 11.6 million voters in 2008 to about 12.7 million at the latest count, according to the SVREP study, which also reported that results varied according to the color of the state.

    Blue states, which are predominantly Democrat, had a higher registration rate for Hispanics, at almost 19 percent, than predominantly-Republican red states, which reported less than a 4 percent increase in Latino voters. Purple states, which are swing states, reported the highest hikes at just over 20 percent.

    Democrat-leaning Connecticut, for example, had a whopping increase of 47 percent in Latino voters, according to the survey. Texas, which is solidly red, had less than one percent growth, despite efforts that included 10,000 new voters registered for the state primary this year by the SVREP alone.

    Purple Florida, a battleground swing state where a lot of outreach efforts have been concentrated lately, was in the middle with just over 21 percent of the vote.

    Hector Acuna, a volunteer for President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign in Phoenix, listens with about a dozen others as they are briefed on how to register new voters last month. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

    But Latino vote advocates are not giving up yet.

    Florida is one of the five key states targeted by HispanicVote.com, which was launched earlier this year by Dennis Garcia, one of the “100 Most Influential Hispanics” in the United States according to Hispanic Business Magazine, and Laura Ramirez Drain, who is also founder of the Hispanic Professional Women Association (HPWA), to connect online through social and digital media with 21.7 million eligible Hispanic voters, mostly Latino youth. They have joined forces with Turbo Vote and other grassroots organizations to promote National Registration Day, a single day of coordinated efforts September 25 to increase awareness of voter registration drives.

    The other four states in their campaign are Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Virginia, where the estimated 200,000 Hispanic voters make up about 13 percent of the vote and could have a pivotal role in how that state goes in November, Garcia said.

    “That could make the difference in the closely contested 2012 Senatorial and Presidential elections,” Garcia said.

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