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Discouraging & Purging: The GOP’s Latino Strategy for 2012

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Instead of Competing for Latino Voters in November, Evidence Piling Up of Multi-Pronged GOP Voter Suppression Effort

Observers across the political spectrum agree that Latino voters will shape the election results in 2012 and beyond, and that Mitt Romney is in a deep hole with this segment of the electorate.  As Republican pollster Glen Bolger told National Journal, “Look, we [Republicans] have got to do better with Latino voters, there’s no question about it.  The math is getting much more difficult.  For example, George W. Bush in 2000 won white voters by the same margin that John McCain did, but McCain got blown out and Bush squeaked by.  We have to start doing better with minority groups.”  But with Rep. Steve King defining the GOP’s immigration stance to millions of Latinos, for 2012 at least the Republican Party has decided that rather than compete for the Latino vote, it will seek to suppress it.

A new article in New York Magazine by John Heilemann shows that the Obama campaign is well aware of the GOP Latino “outreach” plans for 2012.  Heilemann writes that Obama campaign manager Jim Messina “believes Romney’s problems with Hispanics are insoluble, although he, like everyone else on Team Obama, anticipates a vicious ad barrage aimed at depressing Latino turnout. ‘I expect to see what I’ve seen in the primaries, which is their super-PACs spending an impressive amount of money completely negative,’ he tells me. ‘I expect us to counter that the way Harry Reid did [in his 2010 reelection battle]—with a full discussion of the issues and a huge ground game.’”

Examples of Republicans’ suppression strategy are already piling up, as outside groups like Alfonso Aguilar’s Nevada-focused American Principles in Action and Republican surrogates bring up Obama’s “broken promises” on immigration and record number of deportations in order to feed Latino voter disillusionment.  Republicans across the country are also engaged in a second means of Latino voter suppression: putting in place new “voter fraud prevention” measures that disproportionately impact Latino and other minority voters.  While hyping a non-existent problem – ineligible voters and non-citizens voting in U.S. elections – Republicans such as Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) are taking sweeping measures that will actually disenfranchise eligible voters.  As Think Progress explains, “The list of ‘ineligible’ voters is riddled with errors and includes hundreds of eligible U.S. citizens.  According to data obtained by ThinkProgress, in Miami-Dade county alone, 1638 people were flagged by the state as ‘non-citizens.’ Already, 359 people on the list have provided the county with proof of citizenship and 26 people were identified as U.S. citizens directly by the county. The remaining 1200 have simply not responded to the letter informing them of their purported ineligibility…Scott’s list is heavily targeted at Democratic and Hispanic voters…Florida election officials have acknowledged that, as a result of Scott’s voter purge, eligible voters will be removed from the rolls.”

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “Republican Party operatives need to learn that when you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.  The second thing to do is climb out.  That means coming to terms with the fact that your current immigration policies and rhetoric are deeply offensive to a vast majority of Latinos, and changing them—not engaging in tactics to suppress the vote.”

America’s Voice – Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.