Although they represent a growing share of the U.S. population, Hispanic voter registration and enthusiasm about Obama are both low.
If your family hails from Latin America and you live in a battleground state, brace yourself: politicians have finally woken up to the importance of your vote. President Obama's reelection, pundits say, may depend on an outpouring of support from the barrios of the West and Southwest.
Yet attracting Hispanic votes may require more investment, in more places, than either party anticipates. For all the hype about the Hispanic vote in 2012, the aftershocks of the recession may have created a logistical barrier in many states for voter registration.
New numbers suggest that previous predictions of between 11 and 12 million Hispanic citizens voting in 2012 might be overly optimistic, said Antonio Gonzalez, president of the William C. Velasquez Institute and the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project. Barring a major investment in registration, turnout, or both, that's about 10.5 million votes cast.
Gonzalez dug into the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey and found that Hispanic voter registration dropped from 11.6 million to 10.9 million in 2010. Voter registration typically speeds up in presidential election years and slows down in "off-year cycles," he says, but for over half a million voters to drop off the rolls is a big interruption of a 20-year trend of rising Hispanic voter registration.
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"What we think is happening is that the recession, and in particular the housing and foreclosure crisis really knocked the heck out of the Latino community," Gonzalez said. Unemployment and foreclosures caused a big spike in mobility, he said, as Hispanics moved to find work or a new home -- an activity that causes a loss of voter registration.