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Immigration Concerns Fuel Record AZ Latino Voter Turnout

Arizona Polling Place   CREDIT: East Valley Tribune
Arizona Polling Place CREDIT: East Valley Tribune
November 8, 2012

PHOENIX, Ariz. - Arizona's Latino voters turned out in record numbers for the presidential election, motivated by concerns about the economy and, especially, immigration reform. An election eve poll by impreMedia and Latino Decisions shows four out of five Arizona Latinos voting Democratic, largely in response to the state's policies toward immigrants.

Rodolfo Espino, Arizona State University associate professor of political science, says Arizona's growing Latino population means the state is on its way to becoming a swing state that will help decide future national elections.

"Those battleground states - Nevada, Colorado, and add to that Virginia - are states that were not the battleground states of 2000. They are now battleground states that are fortifying a Democratic firewall for presidential races to come."

Espino says Latino voters were a major factor nationally in President Obama's re-election victory. And with as many as a half-million votes still uncounted in Arizona, he says Latinos will likely decide some remaining close races in the state. He notes that many of Arizona's uncounted votes are concentrated in heavily Latino neighborhoods. The outcome of one congressional race in particular, he says, likely hinges on Latino voters.

"Of course, I don't think it's enough to make a difference in the margin of the Carmona-Flake senate race, but it certainly can have an impact on the Congressional District 9 race between Kyrsten Sinema and Vernon Parker."

The Latino Decisions poll found that if Republicans were to shift course and work for immigration reform and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, 38 percent of Arizona Latinos would be more likely to vote Republican. Espino says the Arizona GOP would be wise to take heed.

"This presents an opportunity for the Republican Party to make sure that Arizona does not become a permanent blue state, like Colorado and Nevada seem to have become."

Espino says the immigration stances of Gov. Jan Brewer, Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former Senate President Russell Pearce have driven Arizona Latinos toward the Democratic Party. The poll shows that nearly two-thirds of Arizona Latinos have a family member or friend who is an undocumented immigrant.

Full election results from Arizona and other battleground states, plus the national poll, are available at www.latinodecisions.com.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ