Growth in voting-age Latinos could make difference in battleground states

Por en EEUU 11/4/12 4:25pm
Republican candidate Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign rally in Miami on September 19, 2012. Latino voters could prove critical in determining the outcome in the nine battleground states. (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/GettyImages)

On Tuesday Americans throughout the country will go to the polls to decide whether President Barack Obama or to choose Republican opponent Mitt Romney to replace him.

Due to the nation’s use of the Electoral College, the costliest election in world history has essentially boiled down to the results of nine battleground states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Because of this, the candidates have devoted extensive time and attention in the campaign’s final weeks to persuading voters in these states to support them.

Their effort have garnered extensive press coverage, with recent articles covering everything from who would win under the 512 possible outcomes to the 106 counties in the most competitive states that voted for George W. Bush in 2004 and Obama in 2008.

Far less attention has been paid to Latino voters.

Much of the coverage that has run has focused primarily either on Obama’s advantage with Latinos or the diversity among Latino voters.

We ran the numbers and found that Latinos could play a significant role in determining who emerges victorious in these states, and thus wins the presidency.

Their impact could be felt both in states that have comparatively small voting age Latino populations-the figures are greater than 10 percent in just three of the nine states-and in Colorado, Florida and Nevada, which have 17, 21 and 22 percent, respectively.

But a more revealing slice comes when you look at the percentage increase in the number of voting age Latinos.

In each of the nine states, the percentage increase in voting age Latinos was at least double that of the state as a whole.

In Ohio, the state identified by stats guru Nate Silver to have a 50 percent chance of deciding the election, the 60 percent increase of voting age Latinos was nearly 15 times that of the state as a whole.

Of course, not all Latinos of voting age are eligible to vote, and voter registration rates nationally are lower among Latinos than other groups.

In Florida, for instance, Latinos make up 21 percent of the voting age population, but just 14 percent of the state’s 11.4 million registered voters, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

There is also the issue of enthusiasm among registered Latino voters. United States Hispanic Leadership Institute Co-founder and President Juan Andrade said this election has sparked the lowest level of engagement among Latino voters in decades, while the Associated Press has documented the low level of donations by Latinos to either campaign.

This mix of variables lends an element of uncertainty to the precise impact Latino voters will have on these and other states.

But the community’s continued growth only ensures that they will receive more, not less, attention in subsequent elections.