SANTA FE, NM (By Elise Foley, Washington Independent) November 8, 2010 — As the dust settles from the 2010 midterm elections, Hispanic and immigrant rights groups that worked to register Hispanics and newly naturalized citizens to vote this year said they are now looking at how they can influence the elections in 2012.
Their central message: Hispanics, already the largest and fastest-growing minority group in the country, will continue to gain power as a voting bloc until it becomes impossible for candidates deemed anti-immigrant to win elections.
“We built this infrastructure to mobilize voters to support our friends,” Field Director Rudy Lopez of Campaign for Community Change said on a conference call. “For those who choose not to be our friends, go ask Ken Buck and Sharron Angle how they feel about the election results.”
This year’s efforts in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada and Washington included canvassing for votes and massive voter registration drives. The numbers differ on how many Hispanics turned out to vote: Exit polls report Hispanics made up eight percent of the electorate this year, the same as in 2006, while a poll of Hispanic voters the night before the election estimated turnout would be up from the previous midterm elections.
Hispanics may be to thank for some Democrat victories, but at least this year, the pattern of anti-immigrant candidates losing doesn’t hold true in all states — particularly non-Western ones.
Hazleton, Pa., Mayor Lou Barletta (R), who presided over a now-overturned law to drive out undocumented immigrants, won his race for the House. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) won re-election after signing SB 1070, and Florida’s Rick Scott (R) won the governor’s race while pledging to create copycat legislation in his state.
Still, immigrant rights groups have a point: Demographic evidence does point to Hispanics making up an increasing share of the electorate. Given a majority of Hispanic voters support comprehensive immigration reform that includes options for some of the undocumented immigrants already in the country to stay, enforcement-only candidates are unlikely to receive major Hispanic support.
It’s a message at least some Republicans have heard. At a panel on immigration policy and conservatism in August, several advocates of lower undocumented immigration numbers said the GOP should be careful to avoid alienating voters through rhetoric against immigration.
Failed California governor hopeful Meg Whitman (R) attempted to soften her immigration positions to appeal to Hispanic voters late in her campaign — which arguably could have worked if she hadn’t made hard-line immigration stances a focus of her GOP primary.
Although immigrant rights groups said Hispanics would not be won over by anti-undocumented immigration rhetoric, all went so far as to say they were mobilizing voters specifically for the Democratic Party.
The mantra for all voter registering groups is, “All candidates if they want a chance at the presidency, they can’t ignore us.”