09/26/2012 12:06 pm ET Updated Sep 26, 2012

Impact Of Voter ID Laws On Latino Voter Turnout May Be Overblown

By Raisa Camargo, VOXXI

The notion that 10 million Hispanics can be deterred from voting in November because of voter laws that are suppressive is a bit of an exaggeration, Latino experts assert.

A civil rights group, Advancement Project, released a report Monday pointing to the potential impact of voter suppression laws and voter purges in 23 states that would affect noncitizens and a majority of Latinos from turning out in November.

Penda Hair, co-director of the Advancement Project, was quoted in several media reports as saying that the suppression laws have the “impact of scaring people and reminding them of [immigration] raids and other kinds of law enforcement that have been targeted toward these communities.”

The types of voter suppression laws and policies analyzed in the report include alleged noncitizen purges of registered voters in 16 states, proof of citizenship requirements for voter registration, which inadvertently target naturalized citizens, and restrictive photo ID laws in 9 states.

The aim of the report is to show the potential impact these laws have on Latino voter turnout. The figure 10 million is half of all Latinos who are eligible voters, which some skeptics say is a bit on the high range estimate.

“It looks at all the states where voter ID laws are in place or purging happening and then they added up all the Latinos in those states and came up with 10 million. So, I think the number is a little bit exaggerated,” said Arturo Vargas of the National Association of Elected and Appointed Officials.

“In fact, they also included Latinos in states where the law has been put on hold.”

He pointed to examples in Texas with the voter ID law was overturned and Pennsylvania whose law is still working its way through the courts. Vargas added that projections on voter turnout should be reported with caution.

“We know that many people maybe on the fence about whether they should vote or not and if they start hearing stories about how they’re going to be turned away that means that doesn’t help efforts to turn the vote out,” said Vargas.

A statistician who researches Latino voter trends also questioned the report’s credibility pointing to the manner in which the data was classified.

If it were 10 million that would require every state to eliminate every possible Latino who is a naturalized citizen, the statistician told VOXXI on condition of anonymity.

The organization the statistician works for is not allowed to comment on another institution’s report.

Similar questions were brought up by reporters during a press conference call held yesterday by the Advancement Project. A reporter of the Charlotte Observer questioned why a voter ID law that was vetoed last year in North Carolina was included among the states analyzed in the report.

“The reason that North Carolina is included is that it has asked for access to federal state database, which is federal immigration data and specifically to prepare voter rolls. It hasn’t done that yet,” said Kathy Collagen Gonzalez, director of Voter Protection’s Program of the Advancement Project.“We certainly hope that it does not, but it’s a place where we feel Latino voters can be intimidated very close to the election.”

The Brennan Center for Justice, a non-partisan public policy and law institute based at the New York University School of Law, issued their own prognosis in 2011. The center estimated that 5 million Americans would be affected by the voter suppression efforts, but it hasn’t taken into account the recent changes this year including the voter purge rolls.

Myrna Perez, a senior council at the Brennan Center who works on voting rights, wouldn’t comment on the report’s findings. Instead, she cited that there have been several voter purges that have been stopped against non-citizens.

In Florida, she cited that early restrictions were partially lifted and the voter purges in large scale, although there is still another purge lawsuit that is still active. The Brennan Center also litigated cases in Colorado, where the voter purges have also stopped.

In fact, analysts say there isn’t any viable projection than any report can point to in terms of measuring Latino turnout.

The statistician who was quoted earlier gave an estimated guess of 11.5 million of Latinos who would turn out in November because the same engagement placed on Latinos is absent this year to the turnout during the primaries in 2008.

Clarissa Martinez, civic engagement director of National Council of La Raza, is more optimistic.

“Given the growth of the Latino community and the growth of voting participation slowly, but surely we have a ways to go – it’s expressed that between 11.8 and 12.2 million Latinos could participate in this election,” she said.

Vargas is also standing by the projection of 12.2 million voters NALEO provided and indicated they will be releasing their own report on the voter laws and its impact in October. The Southwest Voter Registration Project gave an estimate of 10.5 million.

Angelo Falcon of the National Institute for Latino Policy said these projections are all viable, but they’re at best speculation. He came to the conclusion that although the Advancement Project possibly “overly exaggerated” because the data cited was too general, there is a consensus that the laws will have a serious impact on turnout.

“The Southwest voter people say look we don’t think there’s going to be big Latino turnout therefore we need to get more resources – NALEO want to show the Latino vote is going to very important – everybody has their own reasons for pointing out certain numbers,” said Falcon.

Originally published in VOXXI



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