Latinos in the U.S. comprise more than 10% of the nation’s eligible voters and approximately 8% of its registered voters, but according to a new report, demands for proof of citizenship and photo identification requirements in several states could prevent at least 10 million Latino citizens from voting.
“Like African Americans, Latinos have experienced decreased access and correspondingly lower levels of voter registration and participation than non-Hispanic whites,” said the report titled “Segregating American Citizenship: Latino Voter Disenfranchisement in 2012.” The report was released Monday by the civil rights organization Advancement Project.
The report found 23 states have “legal barriers” that can keep eligible Latino voters from the voting booth—and In many states, the number of eligible Latino citizens that could be affected by these barriers exceeds the margin of victory of the 2008 presidential election.
The Latino community is a large and integral part of American democracy, comprising more than 10% of the nation’s eligible voters and approximately 8% of its registered voters. Within specific states, those percentages are even higher. In Florida and New Mexico, for example, Latino citizens are more than 26% and 38% of eligible voters, respectively. A number of states have pursued discriminatory voting policies that threaten to undermine the participation of millions of Latino citizens during the 2012 elections.
This report finds that 23 states currently have legal barriers that disproportionately impact voter registration and participation by Latino citizens. These obstacles could deter or prevent more than 10 million Latino citizens from registering and voting in the 2012 elections. In many states, the number of eligible Latino citizens that could be affected by these barriers exceeds the margin of victory of the 2008 presidential election. In Florida, for example, eligible Latino voters amount to nine times the 2008 margin of victory, and in Colorado, the number of eligible Latino voters is twice the 2008 margin of victory. These are among the 23 states that have enacted voter suppression policies impacting Latinos.
“The real problem is that voter participation among Latinos is low—just more than 30 percent participated in 2010,” said Aura Bogado, Colorlines.com’s Voting Rights Watch blogger. “Instead of dissuading Latino voters through dubious voter purges, proof of citizenship requirements, and voter ID schemes, these states should be encouraging them to register and cast their ballots.”
To ensure that access to the ballot box is open and accessible to Latinos as well as all eligible voters, Advancement Project recommends that the policies described in their report be repealed, and that the Department of Justice investigate and prosecute any related voting rights violations.
To address the inequality the report identified, the Advance Project recommends that election officials provide: voter registration and poll worker recruitment at naturalization ceremonies and in high schools; extended early voting periods and evening voting hours for working families; same day voter registration; bilingual materials and assistance at every stage of the voting process; year-round bilingual voter education and outreach efforts.