Pablo Bachelet, Reuters, May 25
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Hispanics could account for one million new voters in the presidential election, giving the fast-growing group additional clout in hotly contested states like Arizona and Florida, a study by an influential Latino group showed on Tuesday.
The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, a nonpartisan group representing about 6,000 Hispanic officials, expects a record 7 million Hispanics to vote in November, or 6.1 percent of the total electorate, according to its voter projections statistics.
In 2000, when Republican George W. Bush won a tight race over Democrat Al Gore, Latino participation was 5.4 percent or just about 6 million voters.
“We believe this election year will be historic for Latinos,” Arturo Vargas, executive director for the NALEO Educational Fund, said in a press conference.
“Not only will we have an unprecedented number of Latinos participating in the elections,” he said, “Latinos we believe will be the deciding factor in many of the states that are the key focus of the two candidates, particularly in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Florida.”
The group also suggested registered Hispanic voters are less concerned about immigration initiatives than education, health care, the economy and, more recently, the Iraq war, issues that worry American voters as a whole.
Bush has suggested a new temporary work visa for millions of illegal immigrants, which many analysts saw as an attempt to lure more Latino voters to the Republican camp in his tough re-election battle against Democrat John Kerry. Bush got an estimated 35 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2000.
“Immigration is important to Latinos … but education and the economy seem to be two issues that really transcend our communities, our national origin groups and even between the naturalized and the native born (Hispanics),” Vargas said.
The voter projections numbers are based on polling trends in presidential and nonpresidential races since 1992. NALEO has issued its voter estimate in the last two presidential elections and said its margin of error in those races was 3 percent.
The biggest jump in new voters -- 391,000, or a rise in 2.9 percentage points -- will take place in California, a solidly Democratic state, its 2004 survey said.
But Arizona should see 70,000 new voters, also a 2.9 percent rise. Bush narrowly won Arizona in 2000.
Florida, which Bush carried by just 537 votes, will see a 1.9 percentage point rise, or 160,000 new voters.
Colorado with 8,000 new voters and New Mexico with 11,000 will see more modest gains.