The Pew Hispanic Center has a very interesting report on “The 2010 Congressional Reapportionment and Latinos” that shows that numerous recent Republican political gains in Congress came in states with significantly growing Latino populations. (Photo: TriciaWang) Some of these states have also gotten significant new congressional districts thanks to the 2010 census showing growth in the South and the West:
Based on averages reflecting congressional gains and losses, 15.2% of the eligible voter population in states that gained seats is Hispanic, compared with just 5.4% of eligible voters in those states that lost seats.
Because of this new political reality, it is likely that as more young Latinos become voters Latinos are going to play a much more important role in these and other states, in the near future:
Two states that gained seats, Florida and Nevada, have been key swing battlegrounds in recent presidential elections (having voted for the Republican nominee in 2004 and the Democrat in 2008). In both states, Latinos are a growing share of eligible voters.
It was not long ago that Latino voters were off were more or less off the political radar of both political parties. When I was growing up in Texas a few decades back, Mexican Americans were rarely discussed as a political factor except in the very southern part of Texas, but now they are a dominant economic and political population in all major and many smaller Texas cities. This political reality is true in many states now, and not just in the Southwest:
Among the nation’s 48.4 million Hispanics in 2009, a record 20.1 million are eligible to vote. Yet an even greater number are not eligible to vote. Some 15.5 million Hispanics are U.S. citizens 17 years of age or younger and 12.8 million of all ages are not U.S. citizens.
That is some 15.5 million who will likely be voting soon–and if current trends hold they will vote Democratic at rates of 60-70 percent, perhaps more. Over the last decade alone some six million Latinos have become voters, mostly from this aging process.
Even if some of the right-wing politicians get some significant restrictions on Mexican immigration, these changes will come in any event:
… the aging of the U.S. born Latino youth bulge ensures that the electoral strength of the nation’s largest minority group will continue to grow in the coming decades. And much of that growth will take place in states that have gained congressional seats and Electoral College votes.
Not only did an overwhelming majority of African Americans vote for Senator Obama … a large percentage of other Americans of color also voted for him. Nationally, Latino/a voters gave him fully two thirds of their votes (56-78 percent in the 13 states with data), while Asian Americans were just a little less, with other voters of color also at two thirds. . . . Project Vote has estimated that, compared to the 2004 election, the actual number of presidential ballots cast in 2008 increased by more than … by one sixth among Latinos, yet decreased by one percent for white voters. . . . One conspicuous feature of this pathbreaking election is the importance of the rapidly growing Latino/a population to Democratic Party candidates. Latino/as now make up approximately 15 percent of the U.S. population and are the country’s largest group of color. This group is now producing ever growing numbers of voters in numerous states. Highly energized by being able to participate in state and federal elections, since 2004 these Latino/a voters have increased their share of the Democratic Party electorate substantially. In key western states of New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado, Latino/as increased their percentage among voters by a sizeable 28-62 percent and also gave a significantly larger share of their votes to Obama. As with the Democratic primaries … the tensions between black and Latino/a communities cited by various observers did not appear significant for voting in the general presidential election. Winning two thirds of Latino/a voters nationally, Senator Obama improved on the 58 percent of Latino/a voters won by Senator John Kerry a few years earlier. In several states the shift contributed substantially to his winning margin. (See some of our sources here and here)
Now, as a political exercise, try to imagine our second largest state in population and political clout, Texas, as a blue state a decade or two from now!:)