U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrex (D-Chicago) congratulates the Illinois Coalition for Immigrants and Refugee Rights after elections.
As the dust settled after the election, Latinos in Chicago and across the nation woke up Wednesday knowing they had played a major role in close races.
While voter turnout in Latino communities is statistically low, more voted this year than any previous year.
Latinos made up 10 percent of the electorate in this election, up from 9 percent in 2008 and 8 percent in 2004, according to analysis released Wednesday afternoon by the Pew Hispanic Center, a Project of the Pew Research Center.
Latinos voted for President Barack Obama over Republican Mitt Romney by 71 percent to 27 percent, according to the Pew analysis. Obama’s national vote share among Hispanic voters is the highest seen by a Democratic candidate since 1996, when President Bill Clinton won 72% of the Hispanic vote.
“The Latino and the immigrant vote has become the new swing vote and they’re determinative,” said Josh Hoyt, chief strategy executive for Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. “And if the Republican Party does not come to the table and help negotiate sensible immigration reform they have a very sad future in front of them.”
In Chicago, Latino voters saw large increases in ballots cast. In the 12th Ward, which has an 82 percent Hispanic population, more than 20 percent more votes were cast compared with 2008.
This trend is reflected in many of Chicago’s Latino populations and helped influence close races. Illinois 10th Congressional District is an example where Latino voices helped unseat a Republican incumbent. The district has more than 56,000 registered Latino and Asian voters and the race was decided by 2,547 votes.
“Latinos are not as conservative as people think,” said Valerie Martinez-Ebers, a professor of political science at University of North Texas. “They look for economic issues and immigration.”
Latinos are the fastest growing population and Census data indicates that half a million new Latino voters will enter the voting force from now until 2030. In 40 years, one in three residents will be Hispanic. For those Republicans still in Congress, they must find a way to reach out to Latino issues.
“As this election demonstrated, in 2012, communities of color, young people and woman are not merely interest groups, they are the ‘new normal’ demographic of the American electorate,” said President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, Janet Murguia, in a press release.
The Pew analysis also shows that as a group, non-white voters made up 28 percent of the nation’s electorate, up from 26 percent in 2008.
But, the Democratic Party isn’t off the hook either.
U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Chicago) told the Democratic Party, “Roll up your sleeves and get to work. This is not a community you can believe is always going to be with you. It’s a community that believes in you, that saw a difference between you and what was offered by the Republican Party. They expect us to come through and deliver.”
For the Latino population, it means they might get some attention to their issues. Latina voter, Idalia Cervantes, 21, said she and her family hope President Obama and Congress will come together to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
“We’re still supporting him and hopeful for the next for years,” said Cervantes. “They need to understand that the population is changing and we’re all immigrants.”