Latino Voters Gain Influence for 2012 Elections

Due to a recent redistricting of congressional seats, the Latino vote has an unprecedented opportunity to hold sway over the 2012 elections. According to analysis of Census data by the Pew Hispanic Center, states having disproportionately large amounts of Latino resident have gained congressional seats. Texas, Arizona, Florida and Nevada all gained at least one seat, with Texas winning 4 additional congressional seats. According to estimates, approximately 15.2% of the voters in these districts are Latino, compare this to the only 7% of registered voters on a national scale who are Hispanic and you can see why it's such a big deal.

Though the Latino community has grown rapidly over the past couple of decades, due to the relatively young age of the our population in the United States, that growth does not necessarily immediately translate to political power. But, in 2009, a record 20.1 million of the nation's almost 50 million Hispanics were eligible to vote. With each year, new generations will come of age and begin to flex their political muscles and most of these Latinos will be based out of states with growing political power as well.  The true effect of the sleeping giant that is the national Latino community will be felt even greater if immigration reform is ever passed, with approximately 20 million Hispanics in the country without papers and thus, unable to vote.

What is interesting is how bipartisan the political influence will likely be. Though Hispanics tend to vote for Democrats nationally, in the states that are benefiting most from the redistricting there has been a wave of conservative Latino politicians winning elections. Marco Rubio, 39, won a senate seat in Florida, while Brian Sandoval recently became the first Latino governor of Nevada—both hail from states that were major swing states in the 2008 election. But many hard-line Republicans have blasted our community and used the issue of immigration as a scapegoat for everything from rising crime to unemployment. How we decide to wield the growing and formidable political power we have is still up for grabs.