WASHINGTON -- Democrats didn't do enough to get Latinos out to vote, to their own peril in states like Colorado, pollsters and immigration reform advocates said on Wednesday.
Tuesday's elections saw major losses for Democrats, who lost seats in the House and their majority control of the Senate. Most Latinos are supportive of Democrats, and some thought they could save vulnerable Democratic candidates like Sen. Mark Udall in Colorado. That didn't happen -- Udall lost to Republican Cory Gardner, despite the Democrat's support from Latino voters. Advocates said during a Wednesday press conference that campaigns should have done more to get out the vote among Latinos.
"I believe this election was a lost opportunity for Democrats," Janet Murguía, president of the National Council of La Raza, said at the National Press Club. "Instead of embracing their records in our community, too many Senate Democrats either ignored or ran away from us. And even in states where our vote could have made a difference, the outreach and mobilization efforts were anemic. This proved costly for them last night."
Polling firm Latino Decisions released results of its "election eve" survey, which showed both Latino voter preferences and some insight into the potential voters who decided to sit out this election. They found strong support for Democrats both nationally and at the state level. But they also found that a majority of Latino voters -- 55 percent -- said they had not been contacted about voting or registering to vote.
Democrats were better on outreach than Republicans were, according to the polling, despite increased efforts by the GOP this year to be engaged with Latino voters. Of those who had been contacted by outreach groups about voting, 56 percent heard from Democrats, while only 35 percent said they heard from Republicans. Thirty-two percent said they heard from community organizations. (Some heard from more than one source.)
Latino Decisions also spoke to Latinos who did not plan to vote. About one-quarter of them said they did not know where the polling location was -- something campaigns and outside groups might have been able to mitigate had they gotten in touch. Another 25 percent said their schedule didn't allow them the time off to go vote, and 14 percent said they did not believe they had the proper identification.
Frustration played in as well, according to the Latino Decisions polling. Nineteen percent of the Latinos they spoke to said they were not voting because of frustration with the candidates.
Some of that frustration may have been due to President Barack Obama's decision to delay executive action on immigration that could shield some undocumented immigrants from deportation. Many Latino voters -- 58 percent nationwide, according to Latino Decisions' poll -- know undocumented immigrants personally. Their polling found that 60 percent of non-voting Latinos said they were less enthusiastic about Obama and the Democratic party after the delay. If Obama does take executive action this year, 68 percent said it would make them more enthusiastic about Democrats in the future.
"While it may have dampened their enthusiasm in 2014, we think that there’s a road forward to bring these non-voters back into the electorate," Matt Barreto, the co-founder of Latino Decisions, said at the press conference.
Among Latinos who had voted or planned to vote, 63 percent said they would feel either much or somewhat more enthusiastic about voting for Democrats in the future if Obama acted administratively on immigration, according to Latino Decisions. If Republicans blocked that executive action, 61 percent of Latino voters would either be much or somewhat less enthused about the party, according to the poll.
The Latino and immigration advocates at the press conference said they would continue to push for more Latinos to get out and vote in the future. Some had harsh words for those in the pro-reform community who had urged Latinos to sit out this election because of their dissatisfaction with the president.
"Those of you who would tell you not to use your voice, not to vote, are dead wrong," Henry Munoz, the co-founder of the Latino Victory Project, said. "I have negative feelings about the midterm elections because I feel as if our community might not be using its voice [and] has delegated its future to a group of people who clearly do not have our best interests at heart."