Voter Registration Down Among Hispanics, Blacks

Saturday, 05 May 2012 09:33 AM

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In 2008, a large turnout among black and Hispanic voters put President Barack Obama on top in swing states like Virginia and New Mexico. In the run-up to 2012, however, the number of this key electorate registering to vote has fallen, challenging the Obama campaign at its very foundation, according to a report by The Washington Post.

The number of registered Hispanics has dropped significantly -- 5 percent across the country, to about 11 million, according to the Census Bureau. But it’s the narrower picture that is more worrisome. The decline among Hispanics is just over 28 percent in New Mexico, for example, and about 10 percent in Florida.

Meanwhile, the registration numbers for blacks are down 7 percent nationwide.

“The only explanation out there is the massive job loss and home mortgage foreclosures, which disproportionately affected minorities,” said Antonio Gonzalez, president of the William C. Velasquez Institute, a nonpartisan policy group that focuses on Latinos. “When you move, you lose your registration.”

Nevada, a swing state with one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation, is cited as a prime example in the Post report. In Clark County — which is 22 percent Hispanic — election officials found that more than 20 percent of voters were no longer living at the addresses on file. Such voters are purged from the voter rolls.

These disappointing registration numbers are not lost on the Obama camp. Recently, the campaign held a series of voter registration training sessions in a dozen states. In Florida, where the number of registered Hispanic voters has dropped by more than 140,000, the campaign is drafting hundreds of volunteers to sign up voters.

That signing-them-up chore is becoming more difficult as a dozen state legislatures passed rules last year requiring voters to present state-issued photo IDs when they arrive at the polls, according to the Post report.

“We’re seeing the squeeze put on voters of color. They were hit by the economy, they have to re-register to vote, and now they are hit by new registration requirements,” said Judith Browne Dianis, a civil rights lawyer and co-director of the Advancement Project, which is challenging the laws in several states.

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