By Safiya Merchant
WASHINGTON—More than 12 million Latino voters may vote in the November presidential election, but some leading Latino advocates said Wednesday the candidates aren’t adequately addressing Hispanic issues.
According to a June study conducted by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, 12,237,000 million Latinos will vote this year, a 25.6 percent increase from the 2008 Latino voter turnout. The states with the largest turnout will be California, Texas and Florida, respectively.
“…Just as in 2008, the Latino vote in 2012 will be decisive and whomever seeks to sit in the White House, in the Oval Office, as in January 20, 2013, will necessarily have to have a Latino strategy to win that election,” said NALEO Educational Fund Executive Director Arturo Vargas.
Vargas noted that the predicted increase in 2012 would follow a similar increase in Latino turnout from 2004 to 2008 — 28 percent increase. The increase had major resounding impacts. For instance, Florida’s Latino population helped propel John McCain to his win in the state’s primary, which helped clinch the GOP nomination.
Despite the historic number of Latino voters predicted for this year, Vargas said, there are many unengaged voters. He said the number of Latinos who can vote is growing faster than the number of Latinos who do vote.
“Our potential has yet to be fully realized,” he said.
At the Wednesday event, officials of the National Latino Civic Engagement Table outlined strategies to engage more Latino voters. Clarissa Martinez De Castro, director of immigration and national campaigns at the National Council of La Raza, said her group will undertake large canvassing operations, test digital communications and partner with Latino service organizations.
However, Maria Teresa Kumar, executive director of Voto Latino, said the Latino community also needs to step up if it wants to be heard by candidates.
The Latino leaders also said to get the attention of Latino voters, presidential nominees will have to pay more attention to their issues.
Republicans often demonize Latinos for being immigrants, De Castro said, and Democrats fail to take a stand for the demographic they often assume support them.