Why the Latina Vote Might Have the Most Impact
While there has been much buzz about the Latino vote in the press for the past year about how America’s largest and fastest growing minority group will have an impact in deciding the outcome of Tuesday’s election, the reality is Latinas will shape what ultimately happens.
It’s expected that over 12.2 million Latino voters will cast ballots on Tuesday, which represents a 26 percent increase in the number of Latino voters who went to the polls in 2008. Yet despite the increase over the past four years, there are still over 10 million Latinos who are eligible to vote and won’t. Within the Latino community, Latinas lead the way in voting. They have already been outvoting the men, and since 1996, the number of Latinas who vote in presidential elections has almost doubled from 2.7 million to 5.1 million in 2008.
A survey of Latina women from mid-October showed that 95% who responded indicated that they would vote in this election. This survey was conducted by Mamiverse.com, an online platform for Latina moms and their families. A word of caution though: women who are online tend to be more educated and savvy, so it’s not too surprising that Latinas who visit Mamiverse.com are going to be more politically engaged. But the Mamiverse.com survey is still revealing in terms of getting a glimpse into the community and where the policy priorities break down.
With more Latinas heading up households and making decisions for their families, it’s not surprising that there is a definite emphasis on the economy, education and health care. So issues like closing the wage gap between the sexes, access to contraception and affordable health care, and funding for education resonate with Latina voters. The Republican Party and their slate of candidates have effectively written off the Latina vote in this election cycle by not engaging with them on these issues. Stirring up culture war arguments in the context of rape and not being supportive of health care reform and even wage parity (Lily Ledbetter Act) has hurt the GOP with this growing constituency.
It’s not going to be surprising to see Latinas largely support President Obama and the Democrats on Tuesday, but it will be interesting to see the extent of the turnout. Additionally, the extent of the engagement beyond November 6 is going to be telling in terms of laying a foundation for sustained political involvement. Whether we see serious movements on issues like immigration reform or even legislation that could promote more jobs will depend on how engaged Latinas are in augmenting their vote. Petition signing, letter writing, and contacting elected officials will come into play in the upcoming legislative battles.