Some Latino Election Night Facts and Views

By Juan Andrade, Jr., President of the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute

The light is going to be on the Latino vote today, tonight, tomorrow, and for months to come, so it's important for all of us, regardless of political affiliation, to be armed with facts.  Remember, our opinions and analyses can vary, and rightfully so, but the facts are facts.  The following are some facts that I would suggest are worth remembering as we analyze and shape the public's perception of what happened today.

- No matter what percent of the Latino vote Barack Obama receives, it won't be a "record high", as Latino pollsters and others were incorrectly suggesting yesterday. And, BTW, it wasn't Bill Clinton's 72% that was the previous record high either. Jimmy Carter received 76% of the Latino vote in 1976.  So where this so-called "record high" business for Obama comes from, I don't know; but I do know that it undermines the source's veracity. 

- The record highs for Democrats were Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey in 1964 and 1968, at 90% and 87%, respectively.  The record low was Jimmy Carter at 59% in 1980.

- The record highs for Republicans were Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush in 1984 and 2004, at 37% and 39%, respectively.  The record low was Bob Dole at 21% in 1996.

- The number of Latinos "eligible to vote" today is not 22 million, as some Latino leaders have incorrectly suggested.  There are 22 million Latino citizens of voting age, which is different from being "eligible to vote" because of this thing called "registration".  So 22 million Latino citizens of voting age are "eligible to register", and then vote.

- If we don't challenge the 22 million "eligible" statement, and 11 million actually vote, the media will report that only 50% of us turned out to vote, when it's really 11 of 14 million.  What's worse, those who want to really minimize our impact will include non-citizens in our "voting age population"(33 million), and say that barely one-third (11 of 33) even bothered to vote.

- Some Latino leaders predicted 18 months ago and it was still repeated yesterday that 12.2 million were expected to turn out to vote today, which I found interesting because at the time the prediction was made, less than 11 million Latinos were registered to vote.  That would mean a 110% voter turnout, which I found to be very ambitious even by Chicago standards! 

- Another problem with raising false expectations is that in order for 12.2 million Latinos to turn out to vote, at last 16 million would have to be registered to vote.  That would mean an increase of five (5) million newly registered voters since 2008.  Our largest increase from one presidential election to the next is 2.4 million.  And we're supposed to double that for this election?   I have yet to speak with a single Latino leader whose organization has "certifiably" registered over 150,000 new voters.  So let's shoot down and disavow that 12.2 million every chance we get because, if our turnout is measured against that number, every commentator will say we didn't turn out to vote, despite the good possibility that 10.5-11 million may have actually voted.

As leaders we must control and take ownership of the narrative that defines the impact and importance of our vote.  Let's spin it our way, regardless of who wins.  We are not a monolithic electorate.  Two-thirds of Latinos may vote for Obama, but that does not make us a monolithic electorate.  Two-thirds of Latinos are of Mexican ancestry but that doesn't make us a monolithic community.  We are partisans, independents, and non-partisans.  Make this a teachable moment for those who purport to be experts.  Don't let them over-simplify our vote or our community.  Let's not validate their ignorance or misperceptions of who we are as an emerging powerful electorate.  Let's not win this election at the polls only to lose it in the spin room.    

Juan Andrade, Jr.
USHLI President