Minority voters could impact 2012 election

By Kaley Fowler

The minority population could have a majority impact in determining the winner of the 2012 presidential election.

According to Sarah Massey, spokeswoman for the nonpartisan voter advocacy website ProjectVote.org, the vote of minority citizens in swing states could potentially turn the tide of the popular vote despite the electorate’s predominately white make up.

“In certain states like Ohio or New Mexico, which are considered battleground states, African-American and Latino turnout could really make a difference,” she said.

While Massey maintained that minority voters have the potential to significantly influence the election this November, she explained that they are not registering to vote at a rate proportionate to their population, which can hurt either candidate.

“We want to see the population who votes really represent the country, and right now it doesn’t,” Massey said. “Right now, African-Americans, Latinos and younger voters are just not showing up to vote in a way that is representational of who they are in the population.”

Massey said only half of Latinos eligible to vote participated in the 2008 election, and that numbers need to increase this year to sufficiently represent the demographic.

Her sentiment was echoed during the Latino Policy Forum’s Oct. 9 discussion, “Latinos, the Deciding Vote,” which featured keynote speaker Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, senior analyst for Latino Decisions, an organization focused on conducting Latino political research.

According to DeFrancesco Soto, the nation’s Latino population is rapidly increasing, which means Hispanics must be politically active to give their demographic a voice in government.

“This election is going to determine our crossroads, not just for us right now, but for generations to come,” DeFrancesco Soto said.

Julian Teixeira, director of communications for the National Council of La Raza, the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization, said the minority demographic leans toward voting for Democrats rather than Republicans.

“In key states where the Latino population is quite large, such as Florida, Colorado and Nevada, the Latino vote will make a difference,” Teixeira said. “It’s really going to have, in some of these key states, a determining factor as to who will be the next elected leaders.”

According to a 2008 Project Vote study focusing on voter profiles, Latino voters accounted for 9 percent of the total electoral vote, while blacks totaled 13 percent.

“We had the largest boost in African-Americans participating in the electorate in 2008,” Massey said. “If African-Americans don’t participate [this year], I think we’re going to see a really different kind of election.”

Massey believes that minority groups’ participation in the election is crucial to the outcome of the presidential election. She said encouraging voter registration and discussing political issues are the best ways to encourage the interest of minority voters in the election process.

“The electorate is becoming more diverse, and that’s something [we would] like to see continue,” Massey said. “We want to see that change because we think the country will be stronger when more people participate in democracy.”