Getting at just exactly how, and by how much, the Latino vote will affect elections across the country in 2012 is a little confusing. Luckily, we have the super duper political science expert who literally wrote the book on the subject — Professor Luis Fraga of the University of Washington — to help us get to the answer.
News Taco spoke to Fraga recently and he told us that the Latino vote is more important than ever, not just because Latinos make up more than one-third of the populations of big states like Texas and California and they are a growing part of the electorate, but also because in tight races, Latino voters can make or break candidates.
Depending on voter registration and Latino voter mobilization, in competitive elections Latino voters who vote as a block can be the deciding factor. Which is to say, if 20% to 70% of Latino voters vote the same, they can decide the race either for the Democrats or Republicans. Fraga gave us some examples:
The point being that, in a very close election (say, Senator Harry Reid from Nevada), a Latino voting bloc can make the difference. Fraga gave the example of California Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, who won re-election in part due to Latino voters, as well as Republican Senator of Florida Marco Rubio, who won there due in part to Latino voter support.
So in 2012 how will Latino voters be crucial? Latino voters will be crucial to tight elections for both parties in New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado and Florida. Which, Fraga told us, means that the bottom line is this: Latinos are important in critical elections, they will continue to grow in importance as an electorate, and in a tense political climate this importance only grows.
Follow Sara Inés Calderón on Twitter @SaraChicaD