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The Hispanic Vote

Immigrant-rights groups are jumpstarting the immigrant’s movement for the presidential campaign by going door to door, making phone calls, and tweeting to encourage more than 8 million green-card holders eligible to become citizens to naturalize and vote on November 6th. The naturalization process means that legal immigrants can vote only if they take the steps to become a citizen. But many immigrants fail to do this and that is one reason why the Hispanic share of the electorate is growing far slower than the population. Although census figures show that Hispanics provided more than 50% of the nation’s total population growth from 2000 to 2010, their share of the vote rose only from 7% to 9% in the presidential elections from 2000 and 2008. According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in 2010 more than 8 million people were eligible to become citizens but only 619,913 of them (less than 1% of those eligible) completed the process.

A significant increase in those numbers could change the political landscape completely, notes Ali Noorani, the executive direction of the National Immigration Forum. In Arizona alone, approximately 170,000 green-card holders are eligible for citizenship, according to the Office of Immigration Statistics. If those people naturalized and registered to vote, they would represent almost 4% of the eligible voter population in a state that has been the center of controversy over its tough immigration law, thus carrying more weight in the state’s politics. The political stakes in the naturalization drives could be substantial. In 2008, exit polls showed Obama had two-thirds of the Hispanic vote. Recent polls generally indicate him running at least that well with them again this year after a primary campaign during which Romney veered sharply to the right on immigration issues, pledging to pursue a policy that encouraged illegal immigrants to “self-deport.” Immigration is definitely an emotional issue that drives immigrant voters to side with candidates that are considered immigrant-friendly, which tend to usually be those in the Democratic Party. But it is no secret that many in the state of Florida, especially those of Cuban origin choose the Republican Party as the preferred one. However, if Romney maintains his harsh position during the general election, he will completely alienate many to the point of no return, leading them to cast their votes for Obama.

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