There has been strong growth in the number of Latino registered voters, which could impact election results. But the critical mass of Latino voters still live in states aren’t considered competitive, thus their votes “matter” less.
In Colorado, Nevada and Florida, in particular, Latino voter turnout is key. If, for example, Latino voter turnout decreases in Colorado, Obama could very well lose his lead. Latino Decisions has flagged those three states as tier one, where Latino influence is most possible. Tier two includes Virginia, North Carolina, and Iowa, followed by Arizona, New Mexico, and Connecticut in tier three.
"Low levels of election turnout could cause troubles for the Obama campaign in New Mexico, Nevada, Virginia and, depending, in North Carolina," DeSipio said
While 18.4 percent of Arizona's registered voters are Hispanic, the Latino electorate there is trending toward Obama more strongly than in any other state. If Latino turnout is higher than expected in November, according to Latino Decisions, the Democrats could stage an upset in a state where Romney currently leads by eight percentage points.
In Arizona, Latinos may feel compelled to vote to change Gov. Jan Brewer’s controversial immigration law. Latino sentiment against Brewer was again inflamed when Brewer denied driver’s licenses to deferred action recipients.
"People who regularly vote need to be reminded," DeSipio said, "but for the breadth of Latinos, they don't fit into that paradigm. So maybe focus on the presidential election or on turnout when something in a state is controversial. There's a need for irregular voters to hear repeated messages that the election is coming and 'Here's what you have to do.'
Arizona and California have seen the biggest increases in Latino voter registration of all states from 2008 to 2012. California is solidly blue and the increase, from 21.9 percent to 26.3 percent of registered voters, is unlikely to impact national election results in that state. The potential impact of Latino voters in Florida has been widely reported, but registration is only up by one point, from 15.7 percent to 16.7 percent.
While overall Latino turnout will matter in the long run, what matters more now is Latino turnout in very specific states and elections.
DeSipio said that in terms of voter registration, he thinks that "where Latinos live works to their disadvantage" because most Latinos live in states are not competitive in national elections -- California, Texas, Illinois, and New York are examples.