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Updated Report Highlights “Cross-Currents” Facing Latinos at the Polls

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After primaries yesterday in Florida and Arizona, the 2010 general election cycle is in full swing — and one of the most important questions facing political observers is what the nation’s fastest-growing voter bloc will do. We won’t know the answer to that question until November, of course, but in America’s Voice’s updated report on “The Power of the Latino Vote” — and on a telephonic press conference featuring a panel of experts held today in conjunction with the report’s release — it’s clear that the immigration debate continues to be a driving factor behind Latino political engagement.. In all, the report examines the role of immigration and the potential influence of Latino voters in 41 key races in 12 states across the country – including potential battleground locations such as Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, and Nevada.  The report – and the analysis featured on today’s call – make clear that Latino voters could make a difference in dozens of 2010 races.

As Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO), said on today’s call:

“The current debate around immigration is playing a big role in what Latino voters say.  We recently conducted a poll among Latino voters in key states and they told us the issue of immigration increases their likelihood of voting and even influences their selection of candidates.  In fact, when asked what are their top concerns, most of the respondents told us ‘immigration.’  That’s ahead of jobs, the economy, and healthcare, among others.  This is the first time we’ve ever seen immigration top the list of concerns among Latino voters and that is very significant.”

In the past, as the report details, the immigration debate shifted Latino voters closer to the Democrats. But the lack of action on comprehensive immigration reform could hurt Democrats who need high motivation and high turnout from all segments of their base—including Latino voters–in order to stem big losses. The report explains:

“The story of the November 2010 election is still to be written, and there are tremendous cross-currents at play that will impact the way Latino voters perform in individual races.  While the lack of action on comprehensive immigration reform could contribute to Latino voter apathy this cycle, recent polls make it clear that the combination of national attention to Arizona’s anti-immigration law and the way many Republicans have wholeheartedly embraced an anti-immigrant agenda could energize Latinos to turn out and vote against Republicans.”