WASHINGTON – In an election season filled with races in which Latino voters could make a difference, Latino Decisions’ final weekly tracking poll shows that Latino voters have become more engaged and enthusiastic about voting in the final weeks. While some of this is undoubtedly attributable to increased talk about the election and significant mobilization efforts by non-partisan groups, both parties’ recent actions and promises on immigration are offering Latinos plenty of reasons to vote, and making it clear what’s at stake on Election Day when it comes to the immigration debate.
In its recap of the final pre-election polling, Latino Decisions writes, “we find a Latino vote more energized, more enthused, and significantly more Democratic than at the start of the general election campaign…The percentage of Latinos reporting a certainty of voting has climbed to 76.9%, its highest level in the entire track, more than five points higher than where we were eight weeks back and more than 10 points higher than the low point in Wave 5.”
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “Latino voters are poised to surprise the political class with an unprecedented mid-term turnout. They could prove to be the decisive factor in a number of high-profile races – in California, Nevada, Colorado and Florida.”
As evidenced by the Latino Decisions polling and developments in key races, immigration is playing an important role in shaping Latino voter perceptions of both parties and intention to vote. The parties’ immigration stances are a major reason that Latino Decisions found, “Overall, with undecided voters pushed to make a decision, we report 70% vote intention for Democrats, and 30% for Republicans, on the generic ballot midterm question.”
On one side of the ledger, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced his intention to bring the DREAM Act up for a Senate vote during the post-election legislative session. Reid’s re-election race, in addition to high-profile races like the California gubernatorial race between Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman and the California Senate race between Barbara Boxer and Carly Fiorina, have featured sharp partisan distinctions over immigration. If the Democrats win, Latino voters will have played a starring role in their victories.
On the other side of the ledger, all seven Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee gave a preview of what to expect if they are running the show the next Congress. In a letter sent to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Republicans asked DHS “how much money it needs to deport every illegal immigrant the government encounters.” As an unnamed Obama Administration official rightfully pointed out, “This isn't about doing this job better in the end. This is about scoring political points, which is exactly what's wrong with the immigration debate right now.”
In addition, anti-immigrant forces on the ground are mobilizing in a direct assault on the democratic process and citizens’ rights to vote. The zealously anti-immigrant organization Ban Amnesty Now and Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio (R) announced plans to mobilize a “grassroots army” focused on “stopping illegal immigrants from trying to vote”—code for voter intimidation against Latinos. Given these and other threats, the U.S. Department of Justice is sending monitors to Maricopa County, AZ as well as other locations across the nation. Arpaio is now distancing himself from the threats from Ban Amnesty Now, saying the organization’s email alert that bore his name was sent without his authorization. But he can’t distance himself from his long record of abuse and threatening tactics toward Latinos in Arizona.
According to Sharry, “For many Latino voters, there are plenty of reasons to vote and stark choices between the candidates. We’ll be watching to see where and how the Latino vote made a difference and what the 2010 elections mean for the future of sensible immigration reform.”