News Column

La Raza Rethinks Voter Strategy

July 31, 2013
hispanic voters
Hispanic voters in the 2012 elections (file photo)

Last week, various civic organizations announced plans for turning out Hispanic voters for the 2014 election.

However, one of the organizations active in Las Vegas in 2012 is rethinking its strategy and the best use of its resources.

The National Council of La Raza, which fielded a small team of canvassers in 2012 to register voters and encourage them to get to the polls, has, at least temporarily, pulled its stakes in Las Vegas.

The organization's representative in Las Vegas, Fernando Romero, confirmed Tuesday that NCLR cut its local team as of July 1.

Romero expressed disappointment at the decision. Between the work of his team of six and the organization's annual conference being staged in Las Vegas in 2012, he felt NCLR had made inroads in the community.

Clarissa Martinez, La Raza's director of civic engagement and immigration, said the organization was examining its previous voter-turnout campaigns and how to best use its money moving forward. She said it had not been determined whether NCLR would have employees on the ground in Las Vegas in 2014.

NCLR reported registering 97,000 voters in 2012, and Martinez said the organization had set a goal of tripling that number in 2014 through national partnerships and other initiatives.

"One thing we must do right now is explore the most cost-effective methods of trying to reach more people," he said. "We know the Hispanic electorate is growing faster than other groups, but the actual pool of potential Hispanic voters is growing even faster. We are looking at online and register-by-mail campaigns as ways of reaching a greater number of people. But, all of this is on the drawing board right now."

The absence of NCLR does not mean Hispanic households will not be hearing knocks on their door from canvassers. Mi Familia Vota, a civic-engagement organization, was active in Nevada in 2012 and continues to work closely with the Hispanic community.

In 2014, Nevadans will vote for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, the state's four seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Nevada Assembly, among other offices.

Some analysts expect Hispanic voters to show strong in 2014, despite the fact that there is no presidential race. Those analysts expect Hispanics to see the mid-term elections as a referendum on the success or failure of the immigration-reform effort in Congress.

How big that influence will be in deciding control of the House is up for debate. Nathan Gonzales, of The Rothenberg Political Report, believes the potential Hispanic voter influence is being trumpeted too loudly. In the swing districts, there will not be enough new Hispanic voters, or ones who will switch parties, he said, to have an outsized impact on the results.

"The dirty secret of close elections is that if a contest is decided by just a few thousand votes or less, every demographic matters," he wrote last week. "Latino voters matter, but so do black voters or Asian voters or suburban moms, or just plain-old white guys."

UNLV political scientist and Latino Decisions senior analyst David Damore, who wrote the report Gonzales challenged, counters that the Hispanic share of the electorate will surely grow by 2014 and the original analysis uses 2010 Census figures.

Damore also argues that Hispanic voter turnout in midterm elections has been misjudged before, and if there is a mobilizing factor, such as immigration, turnout could be significantly higher than expected.

"(I)f Latinos are actually mobilized, perhaps frustrated or even angry at House Republicans for blocking an immigration bill, their heightened turnout in 2014 will take these analysts by surprise," Damore writes. "This is exactly why analysts at Rothenberg, Cook, and even Nate Silver at 538 all wrongly predicted Harry Reid would lose to Sharron Angle in the 2010 midterm, because they all expected Latinos to vote at moderately low rates."

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