A new report by America’s Voice (AV) “The Power of the Latino Vote in the 2010 Elections” highlights several things even the most amateur political bystander knows by now: Latino voters are growing in number, states with large immigrant and Latino populations are likely to gain congressional seats after the 2010 Census, and Latinos are a growing force in non-traditional states (like Georgia and the Carolinas). However, two very interesting insights emerge deeper into the report. The first is a discussion of not just how but why Latinos vote as they do and the second is a look into a unique Latino “sub group” called “Spanish Dominant Voters: A Hidden Swing Demographic.”

AV’s analysis explains that Latinos vote as they do, in many cases, as a result of how a particular politician handles the issue of immigration:

The immigration issue serves as a way to define the “good guys” and the “bad guys” for Latinos. Because of the way many Republican policymakers have handled the immigration issue in Congress and campaigns over the last several years, the GOP brand is increasingly identified with people who want to deport Latino immigrants, while Democrats are generally seen as more welcoming.

In other words, immigration has become a basic measurement of who you are as a politician (and a political party) and is an easy way for a Latino voter to size you up. Particularly for “Spanish Dominant Voters” who are close to the issue of immigration.

AV explains:

In 2004, Republican strategist Karl Rove and President George W. Bush recognized that Spanish dominant Latino voters—slightly less than half of the overall Latino electorate— were a potent audience for GOP political appeals. Most of these voters are foreign‐born, naturalized U.S. citizens, and the Republican emphasis on “family values” resonated with many of them. According to NDN, the GOP more than doubled its share of the Latino vote from 1996 to 2004 by prioritizing outreach to Spanish‐dominant Latinos.

This report becomes increasingly important as the mid-term election cycle begins in earnest and also warns that Congressional silence on immigration reform—a key issue to Latinos, particularly the “Spanish Dominant Voters”—could be catastrophic for those who thought they could depend easily on the Latino vote. It is likely to impact why (or why not) these voters come out in November.

The report asks some simple questions that both parties must reckon with this year:

Do the Democrats advance comprehensive immigration reform this year as promised, or do they push the issue off for the future? If they wait, will delay dampen enthusiasm for Democrats among the Latino electorate, and impact key races? Does the Republican Party “sue for peace” and embrace a more inclusive stance on immigration reform in order to compete for these voters, as some in the party have advised? Or does the GOP continue to embrace a restrictionist agenda, ignoring the demographic and political realities of a growing electorate that is gaining stature and getting energized.

The rallying cry of immigrants around the country has become “?Si, no Ahora, Cuando?” (If not now, when?). Will those cries fall of deaf ears? And if so, what will be the fall out in November?

Photo by whiteafrican.