The expectation is rising for the Latino vote to break records and some individuals such as Louisa Meruvia already know this November will be a turning point.
For a couple days a week, Meruvia spends five hours attempting to inject optimism into the Latino community to cast their ballots. She believes that apathy in the elections primarily comes not from disillusionment, but the general consensus that voting is not important.
“Some people say that even when they vote they don’t think their vote is valuable at all,” she said. “What I say to them is that when they vote for their congressman, representatives, senators in the Capitol, the numbers is what makes a difference. Then they start seeing the process and they start thinking about it.”
“It’s an educational issue”
Meruvia is just one of the many volunteers that has attempted to break that cycle by knocking on hundreds of doors since the start of the election and is also part of the Obama campaign. Coincidentally, she lives in the battleground state of Virginia and has voted in almost every election cycle after she arrived to the United States from Bolivia in 1963.
“There’s a democratic process no matter which way they go,” said Meruvia. “That’s a right that’s given to us that we don’t want to pass up.”
Now with four days left until Election Day, expectations are running high on a projection that the National Association of Elected and Appointed Officials affirms will hold true. An estimated 12.2 million Latinos are expected to cast their ballots on November 6.
NALEO asserts that this is a conservative estimate based on previous turn out rates and data drawn from Census surveys. There’s a possibility these figures might coincide.
Election is down to the wire
Early voting is underway and election officials are reporting that an estimated 19 million people have already made their choice in this election, according to an analysis by the United States Elections Project at the George Mason University, Associated Press and election state departments.
Michael McDonald, Election project coordinator and professor of public and international affairs at the university, explained that based on early voting numbers the overall general electorate turnout rate is not likely to drop off significantly.
“What seems most likely is the percent of voters who are casting an early vote appears higher than it was in 2008 and it’s something very unusual to happen that there could be a big drop-off in turnout in this election,” he said.
Since 2008, there are three states that have broken its record in terms of early voting including Iowa, Montana and Louisiana. He added that other states such as Florida and North Carolina are on track to break those records.
“There are stories coming out of Florida of people waiting in extremely long lines right now to vote,” McDonald said. “The numbers tend to ramp up the closer you get to Election Day.”
Still, the U.S. Elections Project does not have specific data on the number of Latinos who are participating in early voting. Virtually no one knows or civic voting organizations do not want to report those figures just yet. With all eyes locked on the battleground states of Colorado, Nevada and Florida, there’s plenty of expectation on what those numbers are going to look like for Latinos.
In Florida and Colorado, the election is still a tossup, while Nevada is leaning Democrat, reports Charlie Cook in The Cook Political Report. Due to the demographic shift, Cook explained in an analysis published in the National Journal, that to get 270 electoral votes both contenders are relying on a couple of point leads.
Cook cites that Obama needs to win states with 17 percent of 94 electoral votes in seven toss-up states, while Romney needs 79 percent of the 94 electoral votes. Currently, he indicated that Obama and Romney are within “5 percentage points of each other and in most they are within 2 or 3 points of each other.”
“This race appears to be going to the wire,” he stated.
Ignoring the Latino vote on their own peril
In the I-4 corridor between Orlando and Tampa, a majority of Latinos probably already know that. Yulissa Arce is one of them. She is a coordinator for Mi Familia Vota in Orlando and cited that volunteers have knocked on 20,000 doors and conducted three dozen phone calls within the last month.
“We work all day everyday” said Arce, while adding that last weekend they saw a good number of people or a little under 500,000 people that voted between last Saturday and Sunday.
She added, “It’s a little difficult to convince Latinos, but we’ve definitely seen a change in attitudes.”
There are numerous reasons why Latino turnout does not resemble the population growth and some analysts fail to acknowledge that voting is also habit forming. The lack of civic engagement education at schools has also been cited as a crucial factor. What’s more is that voting is not ingrained throughout their lives and particularly when naturalized citizens come from countries whose democracies do not empower them to vote.
In the scenario that Latino turn out does not meet the projected growth, analysts speculate the message that sends in terms of political representation may be detrimental. Yet, Mario Lopez of the Hispanic Leadership Fund believes that despite this assumption, the Latino electorate is slighted to increase in years to come.
“If the numbers fall short of some of the projections, there are some naysayers that are always going to say: ‘See it’s not important as everyone says,’ but I think the thing to keep in mind is that the demographic numbers show the growth of the population—it’s growing and we know it’s more than it was in 2010, 2008,” he said. “If you look at the buzz in this presidential election even compared to last time, the number of states where we’re talking about the Latino vote can make a difference has expanded.”
In 2004, Lopez indicated no one was looking into Ohio, Virginia or North Carolina in terms of turnout.
“If people underestimate the Hispanic vote, they do so at their own peril,” he said.
Banking on higher numbers for Latinos
An estimated 17 percent of Hispanics reside in nine states that are considered key and could potentially tilt the electoral balance. These states include: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin. The Democrats are staking an edge in New Mexico and Illinois, while Republicans are slighted to lead in Arizona, although that has now become a questionable scenario.
The Pew Hispanic Center, recently noted that 24 million Latinos are eligible to vote this year. Cook also cited that four million Latinos are registered to vote now than they were four years ago. For many analysts, these figures are paramount for Latinos hoping to gain ground with political representation.
“I think we had more enthusiasm in 2008 because we had a lot more younger people,” said Meruvia. “But, I think we can achieve things—a little bit more now.”