Today, the Immigration Policy Center released its latest report documenting the size and importance of an emerging voting bloc, New Americans (naturalized U.S. citizens and children of immigrants born after 1965 when the current wave of immigration from Latin American and Asia began). In The New American Electorate: The Growing Political Power of Immigrants and their Children, IPC charts the growth of immigrant, Asian and Latino voters using Census data. The reasons to keep a close eye on this growing demographic—who now account for 1 in 10 registered voters in the U.S.—is that New Americans have a highly personal connection to the modern immigrant experience (as do many Latinos and Asians) and are part of families that live the political and economic realities of immigration today. So in other words, when you demonize an immigrant, you may be demonizing a voter.
It’s hardly surprising then that a major “Get Out the Vote” effort is underway, aimed at mobilizing immigrant voters—particularly in key battleground states. On a conference call today hosted by America’s Voice, civic participation organizations highlighted a $5.4+ million engagement and mobilization effort targeting more than one million Latino, Asian, and immigrant voters in at least twenty-three states, including Florida, California, Illinois, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, New York, Virginia, Colorado, Washington, Ohio, Wisconsin, Idaho, North Carolina, Minnesota, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Utah.
These voter registration campaigns appear to have had an effect. Between 1996 and 2008, the number of New American registered voters jumped 101.5%. As with most voters, the hurdle appears to be registration. Once registered, however, they are likely to turn out to vote. Breaking that down a bit more, 60.5% of naturalized U.S. citizens who were eligible to vote actually registered. Of that group, 89.2% turned out to the polls and cast their ballot in 2008. Similarly, 61% of children (born after 1965) of immigrants who were eligible to vote registered; 84.9% of those registered cast their ballot.
These numbers can turn into an important new constituency that politicians need to remember. The number of New American registered voters exceeded the victory margins in the 2008 presidential election in 12 states (AZ, CA, FL, GA, IN, MO, MT, NV, NJ, NC, TX, VA). In other words, these voters can mean the difference between winning and losing an election.
At a time when elections are often decided by small voting margins, New Americans have been consistently overlooked and politically underestimated. The ranks of registered voters who are New Americans have been growing rapidly this decade and are likely to play an increasingly pivotal role in elections at all levels in years to come. Candidates perceived as anti-immigrant are unlikely to win their votes.
Lynn Tramonte with America’s Voice also explained why their high registration and turnout rate is not surprising at all: “Immigrant voters are Americans by choice. They love this country and are proud to be a part of it.”
Photo by Thomas Hawk.