Monday, July 14, 2008

Can Latino voters tip balance in Wyoming?

The Washington Post reported today that both Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain are "aggressively courting Latino voters."

"Make no mistake about it: The Latino community holds this election in its hands," Obama said Sunday at a conference of the National Council of La Raza, one of the nation's largest Latino civil rights groups. "Some of the closest contests this November are going to be in states like Florida, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico -- states with large Latino populations."

"If you have any doubt about whether you can make a difference, just remember how, back in 2004, 40,000 registered Latino voters in New Mexico didn't turn out on Election Day," Obama said Sunday in San Diego. He noted that Democratic candidate John F. Kerry "lost that state by fewer than 6,000 votes -- 6,000 votes."

Despite becoming the nation's largest minority group over the past decade, Hispanics lag behind other groups in voting. According to the Census Bureau, 58 percent of eligible Hispanics were registered to vote in 2004, compared with 75 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 69 percent of blacks.

So, that's a problem. Hispanics may register but, unless highly motivated, won't come out to vote.

While New Mexico and Colorado have large numbers of Hispanic voters, Wyoming's Hispanic population is only 6.4 percent, or about 32,000 people. Say half of those are adults, and only half of them register, that's still 8,000 potential votes for Obama. If two-thirds vote for a Democrat in 2008, that's around 6,000 votes. That's a lot of votes in the least-populated state in the U.S.

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