Obama’s fight for Latino voters in North Carolina is an uphill battle
Convincing first-time Latino voters to register and then show up in November is tough.
For all the attention that’s heaped upon battleground states like Florida and Ohio, there are a litany of other competitive states in this presidential election. One that has emerged in recent years is North Carolina.
Long a Republican bastion, President Obama won the state in 2008 with the help of a flood of first-time voters, including Latinos. Once again, the state is a toss-up, where Republican Mitt Romney might even hold a slight edge. In case you need a reminder how important the state is, Democrats decided to hold their party’s convention there.
In order to win the state again, Obama will need strong turnout from Latinos and other minority voters. That seems like an doable task; considering the rapid growth in North Carolina’s Latino population over the past several years. Writing for Univision News last month, demographic experts Ruy Teixeira and William Frey put North Carolina on a list of five states where Latinos could decide the election:
Here the increase in Hispanic eligible [voters] was less (1.3 percentage points) but contributes, as in Florida, to an overall minority share increase of around 4 points. Again, given how close North Carolina is projected to be (currently 45 Obama/46 Romney on Pollster), this growth is a significant potential boost for Obama.
But as the Washington Post highlights on Friday, that could be easier said that done. Both the Obama and Romney campaign are competing for Latinos in the Tar Heel State with dueling television and canvassing to try and get out the vote. The Obama campaign, however, has encountered the fact that only one-quarter of the Latino population in North Carolina is actually eligible to vote. And of that fraction, only a quarter typically shows up on Election Day:
But finding Hispanics who are eligible to vote won’t be easy. Getting them to register and then, months later, cast a ballot for Obama will be harder. Only a fraction of North Carolina’s booming Hispanic population is eligible to vote. An even smaller number actually does.
“Are you a citizen?” Mattie Adams, an Obama volunteer with clipboard in hand, asked a young man getting into his car at Greenview Meadows. He looked at her quizzically and drove off.
Adams approached another man, Jose Martinez, a U.S. citizen who was born in Mexico. “I kind of do want to vote,” Martinez said. That was all Adams needed to hear: She helped him fill out a voter-registration form.
Some of the outreach is simpler, like what Edwin Gil, a Charlotte-based painter from Colombia does week after week: visit fellow Latinos for coffee in their homes to talk about getting involved. Sometimes it’s just Gil and his host; sometimes it’s a roomful of 20 people.
“The Latino culture, it’s very hard to make them vote because maybe the corruption, maybe they don’t have the education, maybe you never told them before they have something where they can make a difference,” Gil said, alluding to perceptions Latinos bring to the United States from their native countries.
We know that over 91,000 Latinos are registered to vote in North Carolina, about double the amount that were in 2008. So that should be a built in advantage for Obama. But getting those registered to actually turn out is a critical detail that is more difficult to judge. And we likely won’t know whether that happens until Election Day.
(Flickr, Stick Ware)