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Latinos Poised to Shake Up 2010 Census, Politicians Beware

by Frank Sharry on 11/18/2009 at 4:21pm

Note: Cross-posted at Huffington Post.

girlI’m not convinced Washington has awakened to the reality yet — but the 2010 Census is going to shake things up politically in this country, and politicians would do themselves a favor to wake up and smell the coffee in advance.

This is about raw political power — something politicians of all stripes understand.

Here is what a new study by my organization, America’s Voice Education Fund, has to say:  the 2010 Census, which will document Latino population growth, will have a profound effect on the U.S. political landscape. An astonishing number of states will owe new Congressional seats, in large part, to their new Latino constituents.

The findings provide a stunning political backdrop to the upcoming debate on comprehensive immigration reform, an issue of major consequence to Latino voters.

Since the 2000 Census, Latinos have become the largest minority group in the United States. A bipartisan firm, Election Data Services, Inc. used existing Census data to project which states are likely to gain and lose Congressional seats following the 2010 Census. Their projections show that eight states will gain at least one House seat, while eleven states will lose at least one seat in Congress. Here they are: 

States gaining House seats: Texas (+4), Arizona (+2), Florida (+1), Georgia (+1), Nevada (+1), Oregon (+1), South Carolina (+1), and Utah (+1).

States losing House seats: Ohio (-2), Illinois (-1), Iowa (-1), Louisiana (-1), Massachusetts (-1), Michigan (-1), Minnesota (-1), Missouri (-1), New Jersey (-1), New York (-1), and Pennsylvania (-1).

Latinos represent 51% of population growth in the United States as a whole since 2000. Latinos have driven growth in the states poised to gain House seats following the 2010 Census, especially in those projected to gain more than one seat: Texas and Arizona. In those two states, Latinos comprise a combined 59% of population growth since 2000.

As the report indicates, Latinos are not just settling in the usual major cities.

New members of Congress in states like Georgia and South Carolina, as well as Arizona and Texas, will owe their positions, in part, to the expanding Latino population. What’s more, states that are losing Congressional representation would have fared much worse had Latinos not moved there in record numbers. While their states’ Congressional delegations are shrinking overall, Latino voters are gaining power as they expand their share of the electorate.

These population figures translate into significant new voting power, too.

Nationwide, Latino voter registration grew 54% and Latino voter turnout grew 64% between 2000 and 2008. In the eight states poised to gain seats, Latino voter registration grew 45% and Latino voter turnout expanded 50% between 2000 and 2008.  In the eleven states poised to lose seats, Latino voter registration grew 50% and Latino voter turnout expanded 62% between 2000 and 2008.

So what does this mean for immigration reform?

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