What If Undocumented Immigrants Had Voted in 2012?

  • Not All Naturalized Citizens Vote. Not everyone votes, period, and naturalized citizens vote less frequently. In 2008, 64 percent of the voting-age population voted, according to the Census Bureau. Data from 2008 show that naturalized citizens voted almost as frequently, at 63.6 percent, but only 54.2 percent of naturalized Hispanics votes.
  • Income Can Matter, a Little Bit. Median household income for unauthorized immigrants was $36,000 in 2007, according to Pew. The $30,000-$39,999 bracket turned out slightly less than the total electorate in 2008, according to the Census Bureau, at a rate of 62.2 percent.
  • No Swing States Will Flip, Yet. The Hispanic population is expected to continue growing in the next several decades, and demographic shifts in the electorate, at this point, are assumed. But if all 11.2 million undocumented immigrants had been able to vote in 2012, it's unlikely they would have turned any presidential states blue. Granting 60 percent turnout -- higher than the 54.2 percent for naturalized Hispanics in 2008 -- Obama would have picked up 102,000 votes in North Carolina, but Romney would have picked up 46,500, and the net gain of 55,500 votes for Obama wouldn't put him over the top, even in the one state most likely to have turned blue with newly legal immigrants voting.
  • Not Everyone Will Naturalize. It's impossible to tell how many of the 11.2 million unauthorized immigrants will gain citizenship and become eligible to vote, and it depends on how difficult the process will be. Immigration overhaul is still in its nascent stages, far from the details of what paperwork, waiting periods, probationary statuses and fees unauthorized aliens will have to pass through on their way to the voting booth.
  • Unknown: House Effect. Presidential politics are easy to figure, but voter trends get more interesting in House races. And not much is known about where, specifically, undocumented immigrants live. The Pew Hispanic Center would only categorize them as largely "metropolitan," meaning the undocumented population is concentrated in cities and suburbs.

    But with heavy congressional-district gerrymandering in Southwestern states such as Texas, where Republicans control the state legislature, it's possible newly legal voters will fall in districts that are already heavily Democratic by design, as Republicans have cordoned off the deepest pockets of blue in congressional redistricting.

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