There has been plenty of media hype focused on Wednesday’s U.S. presidential debate between incumbent Barack Obama and rival Mitt Romney. Tonight’s discussion might appeal to members of several vital voting blocs that could tip the balance in favor of either Obama or Romney. One of these is Latino voters, which, based on a new study, could play a key role in November’s election.
A Pew Hispanic Center report released this week concluded that the number of eligible Latino voters has reached a record of 23.7 million people this year. Compared to four years year ago the figure represents a 22% increase; thus, Latinos make up about one out of every ten voters in the U.S.
"Among Latino eligible voters, 58% are of Mexican origin, 14% are of Puerto Rican origin, 6% are of Cuban origin and 22% are of Central American, South American or other Hispanic origin," mentioned the report.
However not all was good news according to the Center’s analysis. Voter registration and participation has lagged in comparison to other racial groups. One of the possible reasons for this may be that Latinos moving to different states could have affected over registration. The young Latino population has grown but they are “less likely to hold citizenship than other groups.“
Another element that could affect Latino voter involvement are voter ID laws that have been approved in several states over the past few years. One of these states with the toughest voter ID laws is Pennsylvania though yesterday a local judge halted a measure that opponents alleged would disenfranchise Latino voters.
Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson ruled that the law couldn’t be applied to November’s election. Simpson did not rule on the constitutionality of the law though he found that the “gap between the photo IDs issued and the estimated need will not be closed” in the five weeks until the election.
Simpson’s decision could provide some relief for possible Latino voters seeking to comply with the law including Puerto Ricans residing in the Keystone State:
In states such as Pennsylvania, the new restrictions requiring residents to bring documentation like birth certificates is creating hurdles among the large Puerto Rican community. Puerto Ricans born in the island cannot use their original birth certificates, which were invalidated several years ago by the island to combat fraud. Applying for the new birth certificate is taking a long time, say community activists, threatening the ability of some residents to vote in the state if the law is not struck down.Recent national polls have indicated that the race is tightening up between Obama and Romney. Yet the latest Latino Decisions weekly tracking poll showed that 72% of Latino voters nationwide prefer Obama to Romney’s 20% support.
Video Source– YouTube via KRQE
Online Sources – NPR, Pew Hispanic Center, Time, NBC Latino, CBS News, Latino Decisions