Immigrants and activists kneel during a Florida Senate budget committee hearing (Pic by Travis Pillow)
Immigrants and activists kneel during a Florida Senate budget committee hearing (Pic by Travis Pillow)

Latino voter growth a factor in progressive voter reform efforts

By | 04.28.11 | 11:30 am

The growing participation of Latino voters shows a heightened responsibility and a need to continue voter reform efforts to further boost Latino voter participation. That’s the message the Progressive States Network is taking from new Pew Hispanic Center data.

A Pew Hispanic Center report released Tuesday indicates that a record 6.6 million Latinos voted in the November midterm elections, and that they represented a larger share of the electorate in 2010 than in any previous midterm election.

The Pew report is framed in a way that shows Latino voters have tremendous potential clout in future elections, says Cristina Francisco-McGuire, election reform policy specialist at the Progressive States Network. She says it sets the stage for a conversation about the the election reforms needed to boost participation in the Latino community.

Progressive State Network states aims to transform the political landscape by sparking progressive actions at the state level by supporting state legislative campaigns.

Franciso-McGuire tells The Florida Independent that Florida House Bill 1355 is an example of efforts to suppress the participation of minority and low-income voters. The bill would not allow voters to change their name and address at the poll on election day, and forces voters who need to do that to cast their vote by provisional ballot. People who tend to take advantage of this are minority or low-income citizens who tend to be more geographically mobile. According to the Advancement Project (.pdf), in 2008, 51 percent of provisional ballots in Florida were not counted.

The Pew report indicates that more than 50 million Hispanics were counted by the 2010 census, up from 35.3 million in 2000. In that same period, the number of Latino eligible voters increased to over 21 million. But Latino representation among the electorate remains below representation in the general population. The Latino population eligible to vote is smaller than it is among any other group, because almost a quarter of Latinos old enough to vote are not U.S. citizens.

Fabiola Carrion, a broadband and green jobs policy specialist at Progressive States Network, says immigration-enforcement bills like Arizona’s S.B. 1070 have mobilized Latino citizens and non-citizens.

Freddy Balsera — president of Miami based Balsera Communications, which specializes in public policy and political communication for Spanish- and English-speaking Hispanic audiences — tells the Independent that the increase in registered Hispanic voters and those who actually vote shows a growing sense of political responsibility in the community.

Balsera says that many Hispanics think laws like Arizona’s S.B. 1070 have nothing to do with securing the borders or about the undocumented, but are reactions to the degree to which the Hispanic community and culture are being welcomed into the greater fabric of the U.S.

He adds that more voters means that other issues important to Hispanics come to the forefront: property taxes, bank loans for business, home purchases. Balsera says growth is measured in several ways: purchasing power, academic power, electoral power, and that as the Latino community grows, the commercial and business interests of Hispanics also become more significant.

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