Will the Minority Vote Matter?

Monday, October 18, 2010 - 05:10 PM

Rodolfo de la Garza

Pundits are predicting that the black and Latino vote can shape the results this year, something we’ve heard every election for the last 40 years. But this year, it looks possible for them to affect national politics beyond the boundaries of their districts.

There are two ways minority voters could be pivotal in 2010. The first involves their ability to change the outcome of statewide elections. This is a difficult threshold to meet simply because of the math of minority votes. In the 2008 election, for example, despite widespread mobilization and record levels of support, only in North Carolina, Florida and New Mexico were minorities essential to Obama’s victories.

This year, Latino voters will be in a position to influence gubernatorial elections in California, Colorado and Texas, and senatorial races in California and Nevada. Latinos constitute the great majority of minority voters in these states, but rather than attribute such victories to the minorities as a group, it would be more accurate to describe them as a reflection of Latino turnout and preferences. This is what Latino leaders are likely to do -- even though this will likely lead to disagreements with African American leaders.

Thanks to the Voting Rights Act redistricting requirements,  district-based races that include congressional, state and local legislative contests always reflect minority preferences. This is why the percentage of Black and Latino Congressmen and women is so much greater than their percentage of governors and senators. Latinos and African American members of Congress, almost all of whom are Democrats, are not at risk of losing to Republican challengers even while Republicans have a good chance to become the majority party in the House. But because these representatives are concentrated within majority-minority districts, the probability that either group will influence outcomes in non-minority districts in this election is low.

Overall, minorities and Latinos in particular have a good chance of preventing a Republican takeover of the Senate. Latinos will also be able to claim credit if Democrats prevail in gubernatorial elections in California, Colorado and Texas.

To convert this highly likely scenario into reality requires the following tactics. In California, Jerry Brown must develop a new type of Latino outreach. He must abandon or greatly expand his ads so that they do more than emphasize his historical connections to Cesar Chávez. In Colorado, the stealth union-based campaign that led to Ken Salazar’s senatorial triumph must be emulated. In Nevada, Harry Reid must similarly use unions to mobilize Latino voters in his Senate race. These steps make it likely that Latinos will finally begin to realize the influence pundits have so mistakenly attributed to them.

Rodolfo de la Garza, a Columbia University professor of Political Science, has studied immigration, political attitudes and voting for over 30 years. He directed the first national political survey of Latinos and has authored, co-authored and edited 18 books and more than 100 scholarly articles and reports on foreign policy, immigration and political attitudes and behavior.


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Comments [2]

Francis from Indianapolis, IN

The return of Majority Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) Senator Boxer (D-CA) to Washington means expedited--MASS AMNESTY--for the 12 to 20 million illegal aliens in the first session of Congress. Democrats have voted to join --YOUR--Social Security and pension with illegal alien workers. According to the non-profit think-tank The Heritage Foundation, the cost will be $2.6 TRILLION DOLLARS to taxpayers. We are already taxed for illegal alien children education, for their health care and a overrun prison population. How much more does the Democrats want from us in taxes; immigration airline junkets from all across the globe, so they don't have criminally steal into America anymore? GOOGLE--more facts and answers on the Internet, then you decide your future. Taxpayers in Nevada and California have been whiplashed by higher taxes on a State level, to subsidize illegal immigrant. Acknowledge that Nevada and California have huge unemployment and billions of dollars in damaging state deficits. Remember we already have a $13 TRILLION DOLLAR US GOVERNMENT DEFICIT. Help fight corruption in Congress by joining THE TEA PARTY.

Gubernatorial Jerry Brown has identified himself as a Pro-Amnesty elected official, unlike Meg Whitman who is against any Path to Citizenship, Amnesty and cutting off welfare and cash payments to illegal aliens. Be observant and watch for violations of our voting laws by illegal aliens. A massive voter fraud in Houston, TX, proves the deceiving momentum of registrations by the Liberal fringe and extremists. American citizens must work together to require proof of citizenship to register to vote and require a photo identification card when casting a ballot. Citizens must demand such a plan to defend the integrity of General elections and secure the civil rights of voters. It's for sure that Election officials will be watching vigilantly and inspecting carefully absentee ballots for violations of the law, specifically in border states with millions of illegal aliens.

Oct. 19 2010 09:29 PM

In your first paragraph I think you ignore the (perhaps one-time) influence of the Black vote in electing Obama in '08. In the 4th paragraph you state that "Latinos .... are not at risk of losing to Rep. challengers...". Take a look at CD 7 in AZ, where long-time Dem. Raul Grijalva, who represents a district that is overwhelmingly Democratic, is suddenly facing a really serious challenge from his Tea Party opposition. The problem is getting out the vote among the Hispanic voters. One hope here in Az is the candidacy of Chris Deschene (Native American, Navajo) running for Sec. of State. If he can rally the Native Americans behind him, we at least have a chance of electing a Dem. Governor (Terry Goddard) and helping other Democrats, including Grijalva, because, truthfully, it is often very hard to get the Hispanics out to vote.
Thanks for your insight!
F. May

Oct. 19 2010 12:40 AM

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