The Giant is Sleeping

we thought our readers would enjoy reading the following piece by our friend, Miguel Perez. The piece was also circulated by the National Institute for latino Policy. Read and see why?

By Miguel Perez (July 29, 2009)

For U.S. politicians who may be weighing the significance of the Hispanic vote in future elections, the writing is on the wall: Although Latinos clearly swung several key states for Barack Obama in 2008, you haven’t seen nada yet.

The so-called Latino “electoral sleeping giant” has not fully awakened yet. And when that giant finally decides to get up and stretch out, all glass ceilings may be broken.

With irrefutable figures, a new report by the National Institute for Latino Policy shows that in future elections, Latinos will be a much more powerful voting bloc.

“The Latino vote is clearly the vote of the future,” said Angelo Falcon, president of the New York-based institute. He conducted an analysis of recently released Census Bureau statistics on voting and registration in the November 2008 elections.

By breaking down Census Bureau statistics to see how Latinos voted, Falcon found that while the growth in the number of Hispanic voters has been “impressive,” the potential for further growth is even more awesome.

“This so-called ‘electoral sleeping giant’ is yet to be fully awakened,” Falcon concluded, as he explained that while 9.7 million Latinos voted in the November elections, there were nearly 2 million others who were registered to vote and never went to the polls.

And because the “Latino get-out-the-vote mobilization fell short of registration efforts,” Falcon found that Latinos represented 7.4 percent of all voters, far short of the 9 to 10 percent share that some had predicted before the election.

“There is a consistent 10 percentage point gap between registration and voting percentages of eligible Latino voters in 2004 and 2008 that points to the potential growth of this Latino vote if fully mobilized,” Falcon said.

While 2 million un-cast votes seems like a huge loss, there is even greater potential among Latinos who are eligible to vote and have not registered. Falcon found that of the 19.5 million Latinos who were U.S. citizens and 18 or older, only 59.4 percent were registered to vote last year, and only 49.9 percent actually voted.

Yet despite these “lags in participation rates,” Falcon noted that because of the dramatic growth of the Latino population, the growth in the number of Latino voters was nevertheless quite impressive.

Some 2.2 million more Latinos voted in 2008 than in 2004. That’s a growth rate of 28.4 percent, Falcon said, compared with a 2.8 percent growth rate for non-Latino voters.

Falcon broke down not only the way the different Latino subgroups turned out to vote but also the rate of growth between 2004 and 2008 for some of these subgroups. And his findings should be studied by politicians who still believe they can ignore the issues of concern to Latinos.

Analyzing the Census Bureau’s November 2008 Current Population Survey, Falcon found that in the presidential election, Mexicans were the majority of Latino voters (53.3 percent), followed by Puerto Ricans (14.4 percent), Central/South Americans (1.3 percent) and Cubans (1.1 percent). But he also found trends that could signal some significant shifts in that breakdown, because the largest increases in Latino voters between 2004 and 2008 came from Central/South Americans (49.2 percent), followed by Cubans (36.8 percent), Puerto Ricans (35.3 percent) and Mexicans (23.6 percent).

If they keep ignoring these figures and trends, politicians will be in deep trouble among Latino voters.
“We are not going away, and the politicians who keep ignoring the Latino community will be doing it at their own peril,” Falcon told me Monday.

Falcon said that while the sleeping giant is not fully awakened, the alarm clock could go off at any moment, especially because there are many issues that are quite poignant for Latinos nowadays. He said there are many “political land mines” that could trigger strong reactions in the Hispanic community – or at least among some Latino subgroups.

“It is clear that the Republican Party, as (it takes) positions of special interest to the Latino voters, like the confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court, comprehensive immigration reform, the political status of Puerto Rico, and others, needs to understand this reality.” Falcon said.

But Falcon is an equal-opportunity critic. He said the Democrats “need to understand that continuing to take Latinos for granted by excluding them from leadership positions and not addressing their issues with any urgency could be the factors that fully awaken this ‘electoral sleeping giant.'”