An alarming decline in registered Hispanic voters has prompted Latino leaders to reassess voter registration drive strategies and to renew fundraising pleas for the efforts.
A coalition of Hispanic groups earlier this month announced a voter registration drive aimed at increasing Latino voters. The groups said their goal was to register 2 million new voters for the general election in November, bringing the total number of registered Latinos to 12 million.
That was before the March 6 release of a study of U.S. Census statistics by the William C. Velasquez Institute, a non-profit Latino advocacy group, that revealed a reversal in the number of Hispanic voters and raised doubts about estimates of the number of Latinos who would be able to vote in 2012.
"We brought this to the attention of the folks who were making decisions about where to allocate resources," Brent Wilkes, executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, told The Huffington Post. "Pointing to the report has been an important part of making sure we reinforce the need for specific campaigns focused on the Latino community."
The study found Latino voter registration declined in the years 2006 and 2010. "We see that for the first time since the 1970s that Latino voter registration did not grow in consecutive non-presidential cycles," Velasquez Institute president Antonio Gonzalez said in a statement.
The study found that Hispanic voter registration consistently grew in presidential and mid-term election years from 1972 to 2004, with the exception of 1989-1990. The declines in 2006 and 2010 stall that growth pattern, Gonzalez said, and dramatically affect projections about the number of Latinos registered to vote in the general election in November.
"A significant decline in national Latino voter registration in 2010 may diminish the size of Latino voter turnout in November 2012 by more than a million votes," Gonzalez added.
The study's authors theorized that recession may be at least partly the reason for the decline. Hispanics who lost jobs may have moved in search of new work without registering to vote at their new address.
Democrats and Republicans have recognized the need to attract Latinos. Hispanics already represent 16 percent of the population and some 22 million eligible voters. By 2050, Latinos are expected to reach 30 percent of the population.
Latinos skew heavily Democratic, and 67 percent of Hispanic voters supported President Barack Obama in 2008.
Latino leaders say disappointment with Obama's failure to keep promises on immigration reform and increased deportation levels, and harsh Republican immigration rhetoric could also be depressing Latino registration.
"One party is beating up on Latinos because it's the easy thing to do. The other is saying, 'Well, where else are they going to go?'" Maria Teresa Kumar, executive director of Voto Latino told Roll Call.
Party officials acknowledged the assessment.
"On the Republican side, you've got a group of people that their semantic is, I think, seen as very anti-immigrant," Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart told The Huffington Post. "On the Democratic side, you have these false promises that now are being seen as, frankly, just outright lies. So I think both those reason are why there is such disappointment."
Wilkes also blamed new registration and voter identification laws, as well as strict new rules on voter drives for limiting the numbers. The study's identification of states with the greatest declines is helping to guide planning and fundraising.
The interim president of the Hispanic Federation, Jose Calderon, told The Huffington Post that the study "really is kind of an urgent call to foundations and other funders to support Latino civic engagement efforts."
Leaders of the coalition of Hispanic groups involved in the voter registration drive said they remain optimistic and motivated.
"It's kind of similar to what happened with the census," said Calderon. "A lot of people mobilized around that to make sure that Latinos understood the importance of participating in the census and what that meant for local communities."
Susana Martinez was the first U.S. Latina governor when she was elected governor of New Mexico in 2010. She is a Republican and the first woman to be the state's governor. Martinez, of Mexican descent, was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. She was district attorney for the Third Judicial District in Doña Ana County in Southern New Mexico, a position she held for 14 years. Controversy has followed Martinez. First, it erupted when she claimed that her <a href="http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/politics/2011/09/09/new-mexico-gov-susana-martinez-confirms-that-grandparents-were-undocumented/" target="_hplink">grandparents first came into the country illegally. </a> She later clarified her family's past stating that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/14/susana-martinez-new-mexico-governor-clarifies-immigrant-past_n_1093443.html" target="_hplink">her grandparents followed common practices in coming to the U.S. from Mexico in the early 1900s. </a> The second controversy came with <a href="http://hispanic.cc/new_mexico_republican_governor_martinez_attacks_law_allowing_undocumented_to_obtain_drivers_licenses.htm" target="_hplink">her proposal to revoke a New Mexico state law that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses.</a>
Marco Rubio was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010 to represent Florida. He was born in Miami and is the son of Cuban immigrants. Rubio was accused of <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/25/will-marco-rubio-lie-matter-as-much-as-politics_n_1031147.html" target="_hplink">embellishing crucial details about his parents' emigration from Cuba. </a> News has been circulating of <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-schneider/psssst-marco-rubio-will-b_b_940308.html" target="_hplink">a possible Republican nomination for vice president</a> in the 2012 election. Rubio told the GOP to tone down its hard-edged stance on immigration. <a href="http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/politics/2011/11/15/rubio-tells-gop-to-ease-up-on-immigration/#ixzz1doct52kh" target="_hplink">According to Fox News Latino,</a> Rubio said, "The Republican Party should not be labeled as the anti-illegal immigration party. Republicans need to be the pro-legal immigration party."
Brian Sandoval was appointed U.S. district judge for Nevada by President George W. Bush in October 2005, becoming the state's first Hispanic federal judge. Sandoval is an American citizen of Mexican descent. He is currently Nevada governor. Earlier this year, Sandoval said <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/13/brian-sandoval-endorses-rick-perry_n_961090.html" target="_hplink">he was backing Texas Gov. Rick Perry's presidential bid</a>.
Texas Republican Ted Cruz is the first Hispanic to hold the post of Solicitor General for the state of Texas. He won a runoff election against Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in July 2012, and is now the GOP candidate for the Senate seat vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison.
Luis Gutierrez, a Democrat, has served since 1993 as representative for Illinois's 4th Congressional District. Gutierrez was born in Chicago and his parents are from Puerto Rico. He has been at forefront of every single immigration reform and immigrant rights defense struggle since 1993, <a href="http://lavoz-prcc.org/2009/04/congressman-luis-v-gutierrez-the-mastery-of-the-politics-of-making-the-impossible-possible/" target="_hplink">according to La Voz del Paseo Boricua. </a> Gutierrez has been outspoken against current deportation laws. In July, he and 10 other immigration reform supporters were arrested in front of the White House for protesting against the Obama administration's deportation of young people and families, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/26/luis-gutierrez-arrested-f_n_910348.html" target="_hplink">according to HuffPost. </a> He was arrested in mid-1990s for protesting the U.S. Navy's bombing of Vieques, Puerto Rico, and in 2010 for protesting against the Obama administration's deportation record.
Luis Fortuño is the governor of Puerto Rico and president of the New Progressive Party, the political party seeking U.S. statehood for the island. In 2012, Fortuño has been an active campaigner for Mitt Romney, even being listed as a potential Vice President candidate on the GOP ticket.
Bill Richardson served as governor of New Mexico from 2003 to 2010. He also served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and as energy secretary in the Clinton administration. Richardson was born in California to an American father and a Mexican mother. Even after ending his term in 2010, Richardson remains an active political figure. In September 2011, Richardson visited Cuba to negotiate the release of Alan Gross, imprisoned in Cuba since 2009 after bringing communications equipment into the island. Richardson came back emptyhanded, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/28/wife-man-imprisoned-in-cuba_n_1117742.html" target="_hplink">according to HuffPost. </a>
Alex Padilla is a Democratic senator representing California. He is the first Latino and youngest-ever president of the League of California Cities, <a href="http://powerwall.msnbc.msn.com/politics/10-latino-politicians-to-watch-9701.gallery?#!wallState=0__%2Fpolitics%2F10-latino-politicians-to-watch-9701.gallery?photoId%3D38975" target="_hplink">according to PowerWall at MSNBC.</a> He is a Los Angeles native and son of Mexican immigrants. Padilla introduced a bill in the Senate that authorized $104 million in tax breaks to help "green" companies in California when buying equipment. The bill also aimed to add jobs.
Ken Salazar and John Salazar
John and Ken Salazar, both Democrats, have identified themselves as Mexican-American brothers. Ken Salazar is the U.S. secretary of the interio. John Salazar was congressman for Colorado's 3rd Congressional District, serving from 2005 until 2011.
Gloria Molina is a Los Angeles County supervisor. Molina was born in California to Mexican parents. She was elected to represent the First District in 1991 -- the first Latina to do so. She quickly developed a reputation as a fiscal guardian committed to achieving good government reforms, maintaining the county's public health care system, and addressing quality of life issues -- particularly for the 1 million residents in unincorporated areas, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gloria-molina" target="_hplink">according to HuffPost.</a> After LA County jail abuse incidents, Molina made several recommendations including <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/18/la-county-jail-abuse-boar_n_1018683.html" target="_hplink">asking to install cameras in the jails, barring deputies from striking inmates' heads, and banning the heavy flashlights deputies carry that can be used as batons.</a>
Julian Castro is the mayor of San Antonio, Texas. First elected May 9, 2009, Castro won re-election in 2011 with nearly 82 percent of the vote. "Julián Castro is the son of Rosie Castro, a well-known '70s firebrand who was among the leaders of La Raza Unida, the radical movement in Texas that was dedicated to defending the civil rights of Mexican-Americans and promoting a strong "Chicano" identity", according to <em>The New York Times</em>. "Julin really stands out," said Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda, an associate professor of Chicano and global studies at UCLA,<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/09/magazine/09Mayor-t.html?pagewanted=all" target="_hplink"> to <em>The New York Times</em>.</a> "There are other talented young Hispanic politicians around, but few have his stature or national potential. He's from San Antonio, but he's very much admired in California. He's like Obama -- one of us, but someone who also comes out of a broader American experience."