Friday, April 19, 2024

The Fight For Latino Votes Goes West…the Midwest that Is.

As reported last week recent data from the US Census Bureau revealed that the Latino population is growing at a rapid rate. The data also revealed that the population growth is occurring not only in states were Latinos tend to be concentrated such as California and Texas but is spreading to Midwest states.

During this election year several of those states such as Wisconsin and Ohio are considered battle ground states where every vote will be of utmost significance. Presidential candidates have taken notice of the changing demographics and are taking steps to woo Latino voters in this region. Senator Barack Obama’s campaign and The Democratic National Committee recently announced a 20 million dollar spending plan which will focus on Latinos. They plan to invest money in states such as Wisconsin and Ohio. In fact his camp has plans to open up several offices in the southern part of Wisconsin where the highest concentration of Latinos resides. McCain, for his part, also has said he plans to seek Hispanic votes outside of the traditional states. Both the Obama and McCain camps have been working with Latino publications such as Milwaukee’s “El Conquistador” and other Latino media throughout the state in an effort to spread their messages.

It still remains to be seen whether the increase in population will result in increased political clout in these Midwestern states. Turnout will determine the effect Latinos will have on the outcome. In order to ensure that all Latinos come the polls, groups such as Voces de La Frontera, have begun registering Latinos in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and urging turnout in November. The group has registered 1,500 people in the southeastern part of the state this year. “This is a critical election for Latinos,” said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces who has helped organize three major marches in Wisconsin to protest stalled immigration reform legislation in Congress.She wants to put into practice a slogan they chanted on the streets: “Today we march, tomorrow we vote.”

The Hispanic population of Wisconsin may seem small in comparison to that of states such as California. But when the stakes are high, any small margin can make a difference. Charles Franklin, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison explains, “Almost any group, no matter how small, could be pivotal.” This becomes even more significant when one considers that in 2004 Hispanics made up about 1.8 % of voters in Wisconsin and John Kerry lost the state of Wisconsin by only 1%.

Journal Sentinel