September 25, 2004


Latino Vote Still Lags Its Potential: The Southwest influx leans Democratic but is not registering fast enough to help Kerry. (Ronald Brownstein and Kathleen Hennessey, September 25, 2004, LA Times)

In miniature, the experience of Auyb and Rodriguez shows how the continuing influx of Latinos is reshaping the partisan balance across the desert Southwest — and why the transformation may not arrive fast enough to help Sen. John F. Kerry erase President Bush's advantage in the region this November.

Slowly but inexorably, activists across the region are moving more Latinos to the polls; even with the difficulties experienced by Auyb, Rodriguez and other canvassers, their group, the Citizenship Project, has registered 3,000 new Latino voters in Las Vegas this year.

Such progress is gradually strengthening Democratic prospects not only in Nevada and New Mexico, swing states in recent presidential elections, but also in Colorado and Arizona, which the GOP has dominated. In all four states, Latinos make up a larger share of voters today than in 1992. And they are a reliably Democratic block.

Experts in both parties agree that eventually, this demographic trend could give the Southwest the largest concentration of tossup states outside of the industrial Midwest.

But Latinos are still not registering and voting in numbers large enough to maximize their influence. As a result, in Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona, Latinos represent a smaller share of the vote — in some cases much smaller — than their share of the population, according to exit polls on election days.

Although Latinos are growing more important with each election, they are unlikely to become a decisive factor in these states until they overcome the barriers to political participation that plagued the canvassers in Las Vegas.

"The pool of potential voters lags way behind the growth in the Hispanic population," said Maria Cardona, director of the Latino outreach project at the New Democratic Network, a centrist Democratic group.

That gap means that Latinos, who could tip any of the Southwest's four battleground states to Kerry, are more likely to play a supporting rather than starring role in this year's fight for the region's 29 electoral votes.

"The longer-term implications for Latino empowerment in what we are seeing are great," said Louis DeSipio, a political scientist at UC Irvine who specializes in Latino politics. "But they aren't necessarily in this election."

The GOP can and must appeal to these voters with social issues, school choice, and the Ownership Society.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 25, 2004 8:19 AM

And the Democrats will respond with, "Hey, look! Free money taken from evil white guys!"

And, quite frankly, win every time.

Posted by: Just John at September 25, 2004 3:33 PM

I don't know much about immigrants from Mexico, but Latinos in my part of the country are becoming "White," as the Sociologists say, pretty quickly.

Posted by: Lou Gots at September 25, 2004 8:30 PM