Untapped Electoral Power: Staggering Numbers of Unregistered Latinos and Immigrants Eligible to Naturalize in California


Posted on 12 June 2012

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By Philip E. Wolgin
Center for American Progress

The Center for American Progress today released an infographic and interactive map on the immense electoral power of unregistered Latinos and citizens-in-waiting (legal immigrants eligible to naturalize and become citizens) in 10 highly influential states in the upcoming elections. In California the almost 4.5 million potential voters far surpass the 1 million voters that was the margin of victory in the 2008 presidential election.

Across the nation millions of Latinos are eligible to vote but are currently unregistered, and an additional 8.1 million green-card holders are now eligible to become citizens and vote in November—altogether forming a formidable stream of new voters who have the power to sway the upcoming presidential election if they meet state registration deadlines beginning in late October.

The infographic and interactive map reveal the top 10 states with the highest number of potential voters across the nation, finding that in eight of them—California, Texas, Florida, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, New Mexico, and Nevada—the number of potential voters is greater than the margin of victory in the 2008 presidential election, while in two states—Virginia and New York—the number of potential voters is close to the margin.

Looking ahead, every month about 50,000 Latinos turn 18 and are eligible to vote and each year an average of 700,000 immigrants are naturalizing and becoming U.S. citizens leaving little doubt that their influence will only grow. Angela Kelley, Vice President for Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress, commented:

"The numbers don’t lie. U.S.-born Latinos coming of age as voters have a close connection to their family and their communities’ immigrant roots. Add to that the immigrants themselves who are naturalizing and you’ve got a powerful lens through which candidates from both parties are being examined. If politicians either ignore or demonize immigrants, they can say “adios” to ever getting a second look by these voters."

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Philip E. Wolgin is an Immigration Policy Analyst at American Progress. His research focuses on the development of U.S. and comparative immigration and refugee policy from World War II to the present.