Since 2005 Latinos in the United States have endured increased immigration raids, failed attempts at comprehensive immigration reform, vicious rhetoric from anti-immigrant politicians and activists, the sub prime mortgage mess, the economic melt down and increased racist violent incidents against Latinos throughout the country. In 2006 we marched in the millions against anti-immigrant national and local policies. In 2008 we voted. The numbers are not completely in as of this article going to press, but it seems that Latinos accounted for 8% of about 130 million ballots cast. That means that over 10 million Latinos voted in the 2008 election. The percentage of Latino voters in 2004 was also about 8%, but total votes increased in 2008.
After years of insults and fear brought to our community, primarily by Republican politicians, we responded by giving over 66% of our vote to President-elect Barack Obama. Less than 32% of Latinos voted for John McCain, compared to over 40% that voted for George Bush in 2004. Latinos were key in electing Obama. Obama won by some 7 million votes nationally and Latinos provided at least 50 percent of that margin, while making just about 9% of voters. Latinos seemed to have played key roles in electing Obama in swing states like Florida, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado and even some role in states like Ohio, Virginia, Indiana and North Carolina, all states that voted for George Bush in 2004.
What about Minnesota? The numbers for Latino voting in Minnesota are hard to find. But exit polls for Minnesota provided by CNN show that 3% of people who responded in Minnesota identified themselves as Latinos. This would mean that about 85,000 voters identified themselves as Latinos, the same number that identified themselves as African American.
The general consensus in the Minnesota Obama campaign was that in 2006 there were 48,000 Latinos eligible to vote and that only 22,000 were registered to vote. We don’t know how they arrived at those numbers, but in a state where we estimate about 250,000 Latinos, and where 60% of Latinos in the 2000 census were identified as US citizens those numbers always seemed small to us. They probably also did not account for the doubling of US citizenship applications that were processed in the US over the past year, and how motivated these new US citizens were to vote.
Regardless of how accurate Latino voter estimates are in Minnesota, there seems to have been a dramatic increase in Latino voters which should affect the future of Minnesota political campaigns. What effect did Latino voters have in Minnesota elections in 2008? Unfortunately CNN exit polls showed how many Minnesota voters identified themselves as Latinos, but not how they voted. Let’s assume Minnesota Latino voters voted the same as national Latinos. Minnesota Latino demographics are fairly similar than national demographics, with over 60 % identifying themselves as having Mexican origin. That would mean that about 29,000 more Latinos voted for Obama than for McCain in Minnesota which would account for 10% of the margin of victory for Obama in the State. Three percent of voters accounted for ten percent of the margin.
In the US Senate race Coleman was ahead of Franken by 708 votes, at the time La Prensa went to print, and a recount could give Franken the edge. Latinos might end up deciding that race. Reports say that there were irregularities in areas that would benefit Franken. Voting to kill comprehensive immigration reform last year and ignoring Latino voters, might cost Coleman the election. At the very least it could be argued that Franken would not even be in the race anymore if it wouldn’t have been for the Latino vote.
How did candidates endorsed by La Prensa de Minnesota do in 2008, and how did Latino voters affect the election? La Prensa endorsed Barack Obama and Al Franken, and we already commented on those elections. Keith Ellison was endorsed for the 5th congressional district race. Latinos were a factor in his 2006 election, but in 2008 Ellison won comfortably. Based on state exit polls, we estimate that there were probably about 10,000 Latino voters in the 5th district this year, and Ellison won by over 150,000 votes. In the 1st congressional district La Prensa endorsed Tim Walz and he won surprisingly by about 100,000 votes. We estimate there were some 11,000 Latino voters on the 1st.
In the Third congressional race La Prensa endorsed Ashwin Madia, who lost to Republican Erick Paulsen by about 27,000 votes. We estimate there were some 8,000 Latino voters in the 3rd. In the 6th congressional District El Tinklenberg was endorsed and he lost to Michelle Bachmann by about 11,000 votes. We estimate some 7,000 Latino voters in this district.
In Minneapolis La Prensa endorsed Carla Bates, Lydia Lee and Jill Davis for its school board and all three won. The margin between the winners and those who didn’t get elected was about 15,000 votes, more than the maybe 8,000-9,000 Latino voters we estimate in the city. La Prensa endorsed the referendum to increase property taxes to increase local funding for Minneapolis schools and it comfortably passed by close to 80,000 votes. We did not endorse changing how Minneapolis School Board members get elected, and it also passed, but by about 50,000 votes.
So Latinos contributed three times more to Obamas margin of victory than our percentage of the voting population in Minnesota. Al Franken still has a chance to win a recount thanks to Latino voters. And Latinos played less of a role in congressional and city elections in 2008. But one thing is for sure. Pawlenty won by about 20,000 votes in 2006. The US Senate may be decided by less than 1,000 votes. Close congressional, city and legislative races will be decided in Minnesota in the future by Latinos. Latino voters will continue to grow in Minnesota faster than any other group.
One questions for campaigns and political parties: If Latinos make 3% of Minnesota voters did you allocate 3% of your campaign budget to reaching our to Latino voters? Did 3% of you advertising go to Latino media? Was it even 1%?
What do Latino voters want? VOTE FOR COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM NOW! Stop trying to pass immigration laws at a state or local level. Stop immigration raids that divide families. Get our economic house in order and pass laws that will create, not kill high paying jobs. Pass comprehensive health care reform. Make sure Latino kids get the same chance as everyone else to get a quality education. NOW!
Latino voters are watching carefully. We lent the Democrats our vote in 2008. It is up to Democrats now to earn that vote back. It is up to us, Latinos to remind politicians every single day, what it will take to win our vote back.