(CNN) - The voting population of Latinos has exploded to the point where Latinos will not only be a decisive force in the presidential election, but will likely affect the outcome of political contests from school boards and statehouses to Congress, according a new report by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.
"Latino voter enthusiasm is up," said Arturo Vargas, executive director of NALEO. A recent poll by ImpreMedia-Latino Decisions confirms that analysis, counting three quarters of Latino voters as actively engaged in the election with 14% of all Latinos saying they are actively working on getting out the vote.
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The number of registered Latinos has increased by 26% in the last four years to 12.2 million or 8.7% of all voters. A new potential Latino voter turns 18 every 30 seconds. Already, one of four U.S. citizens under the age of 18 is Latino, including 48% of the youth population of Texas, Vargas said, but low voter registration among young people and new voter ID laws could dampen turnout.
Clarissa Martinez, who works on civic engagement for the National Council of La Raza, cautioned that Latino voting power is held back by a lack of registration. "Once Latinos register they vote in nearly as high a numbers as anyone," she said. But a third of the entire community is not yet 18, another 23% are ineligible because their immigration status and just 14 million of the 24 million eligible Latino voters have actually registered, she said.
Even so, Martinez added "they can't get to the White House without the Latino vote, not with out a sizeable share… the Democrats need at least a majority but the Republicans cannot fall below a certain floor and they're not quite there just yet," meaning that Democrats need to pull in big numbers of Latinos voting for them and Republicans need to meet a threshold they haven't yet secured.
If Latinos do turn out in high numbers, their effect on the presidential elections could be decisive. A 2008 CNN exit poll showed that 67% of Latino voters went with then-Sen. Barack Obama to 31% for Sen. John McCain.
An Oct 17-20 poll of likely Latino voters conducted by NBC News with the Wall Street Journal and Telemundo had Obama at 70% to Mitt Romney's 25%.
"President Obama today enjoys a lead in the battleground states, and that is because of the Latino vote," said Maria Cardona, a Democratic CNN analyst.
But the presidential elections are not the only elections where Latinos could have a major impact. Vargas said Latinos are increasingly running at the county level, on school boards, to offices that once seemed out of reach, then moving up from there. There are Latinos running for Senate and House seats this year in 39 of the 50 states. NALEO projects there will be 10 new Latino state senators to bring the total to 77. There are currently 190 Latinos in state houses and assemblies and NALEO expects that number to rise to 217, with Hispanics running in 21 states including places as far flung as Arkansas and Maine.
Two Latinos are running for the U.S. Senate. In Arizona, former Surgeon General Richard Carmona is taking on Rep. Jeff Flake. In Texas, Latinos hope to elect their first Senator as polls show Republican and former state solicitor Ted Cruz running ahead.
In Congress, there are 24 current Latinos. There are 22 incumbents running, all of which are likely to be re-elected.
Latino electoral influence has been rising steadily for years. In 2010, Latinos were critical to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's victory. Latino Republicans increased their House representations from three to seven, the Senate Republicans added Marco Rubio of Florida and two Latino governors were added.
A good example of Latino electoral influence this year is Florida. Ana Navarro, a Republican CNN analyst, said the makeup of Latino voters in Florida has created a challenge for both parties as Puerto Ricans and Colombians rise in what was once a state dominated by Cubans. Both parties have had to focus on "micro targeting" ethnic groups and talk more about Latin American issues, trade, and education.
"President Obama is just off enough with just enough groups, including Hispanics, where the lead that he enjoyed four years ago with Sen. John McCain has probably been erased and if the trend continues I'd say Pres. Obama probably stands to lose Florida," Navarro said.
Cardona said the changing demographics could tilt the elections either way. "It is razor thin and I absolutely think the Hispanic vote could absolutely make a decisive difference."
Obama's emphasis on Latino voters is evidence by his renewed support for immigration reform, an issue he championed in 2008 but didn't move on. He told the Des Moines Register of Iowa in an interview published Wednesday that he believes he will achieve immigration reform next year. He also told her: "Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community."
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If the Latino population shows up in force on November 6th........Romney and a whole lot of other GOP candidates are toast.
The big question is........how many of those votes will be from ILLEGALS? Quite a lot, I'm certain, as Obama has been fighting for the ability to commit voter fraud, at every turn!
12 million???? Just have to wonder how many of that 12 million are legally able to vote in this country?
This is excellent news!! For Romney!!!
Why would Romney and GOP be toast? It's Obama and the dems that write checks with their mouths that their azz cant cash! Any well read Latino knows the facts, the GOP supports legal immigration, end of story.
Rick McDaniel, you're full of it. I will type slowly here - i l l e g a l s d o n o t v o t e!
And I take great joy in telling you that all three of my Latino/Latina kids will be voting for Obama with two of them voting in a Presidential election for the first time. And before you slur them as to being anchor babies, my family came over from Ireland over 200 yrs ago. That's almost as long as my husband's ancestors.
The real question Rick is this: how many more votes would there be if people weren't being "illegally" prevented from casting their constitutionally guaranteed vote? The voter suppression effort initiated by the GOP this year is a disgrace and an affront to democracy.
So Rick and John........it would seem you are making the statement that if you are Latino, you must then be "illegal" and therefore do not have the right to vote. There are no illegal white people voting then? Or blacks, or asians? Exactly what point are you trying to make with your "illegal" comments?
Funny, everyone on the right worries about voter fraud from Latinos, but not a peep when one of their own operatives gets arrested for destroying filled voter registration cards from Democratic voters. It would seem, as usual, that the only systematic voter fraud is being committed by Republicans, since they know they can't win on the issues.
"A good example of Latino electoral influence this year is Florida."
Right. Pick the most unique and GOP-friendly latino situation for Mittens in the country and then have a Republican analyst supply you with the "analyses." That pretty much defines how NOT to choose an example that's supposed to be representative of the greater population.
Real good commentary from the Real Tom Paine.
"Exactly what point are you trying to make with your "illegal" comments?"
They are terrified...TERRIFIED...of the browning of America and the idea that they may have to compete with minorities on an evqual playing field at some point int he future. Teatrolls' worst nightmare: "For English, Press Two."
I really don't know how America will pull out of this probelm. As more and more illegal immigrants come to the country, we will collapse from teh inside out. There may be overpopulation, and not enough benefits to maintain every peron. There are illegal immigrants that are erecieveing more benefits than a U.S. citizen
Too many illegal immigrants in America. We will probably collapse from the inside out. Think of America as a stomack, and the food that is comming in are the immigrants, eventually the stomach will get health probalems if the person doe snot stop eating. In ths case America will be the one with the health problbem. It is not that i have anything against immigrants becasue we all are, but as Americans we need to fix things with us, and then help out other people.
Self-deportation... Mitt the twit. Tells all.
"I really don't know how America will pull out of this probelm. As more and more illegal immigrants come to the country"
Hey, genius, the article is not about the "illegal immigration problem." It's about latino voters. If you don't understand the difference and insist that they are one and the same, that makes you very VERY ignorant.
The flip-flopper Mitt the Twit and Lyin Ryan cannot get the majority of a minority only of White's because Mitt is a mexican masquerading as a White man! President Obama will win majority in every race category but White, but he will not be too far off with around 45%. THIS TELLS ME PRESIDENT OBAMA IS SEEN AS SOMEONE WHO IS NOT BIRACIAL BUT NON-RACIAL AND ROBME IS SEEN THROUGH MORE OF A RACIAL LENSE!
@Rick McDaniel – The big question is........how many of those votes will be from ILLEGALS? Quite a lot, I'm certain, as Obama has been fighting for the ability to commit voter fraud, at every turn!
Hey grandpa.. give it a rest please. Most Americans are already aware the the GOP sponsored VoterID laws are a solution looking for a problem and that illegals DON'T VOTE! A brief search in that reddest-of-red states (TX) full of ILLEGAL voters right, indicates five (yes, ONLY FIVE) convictions for voter fraud out of 52 cases brought with over 40 MILLION votes cast in TX over the last 10 yrs. FWIW – NONE of those 5 were by illegals, nor Democrats.
Based on those numbers, the voter fraud rate in TX alone is (40mill/52) = 0.0000013% !!! So much for your illegals theory. Have a nice retirement.