Republicans leaders have been stumbling all over themselves lately, desperately trying to put a kinder mask on their immigration policies in order to woo more Hispanic voters. When it comes to voting rights for Latinos, however, it’s clear that the GOP is more committed to suppression than ever, as Zachary Roth explains it in his MSNBC post “Wave of voter suppression measures target Latinos.” Says Roth:
…While the national GOP has said it will focus on reaching out to Latinos, Republicans on the ground have taken a very different tack: In recent years, a host of voter suppression measures across the country–from purges of voter rolls, to citizenship requirements to ID laws like the one Riddle backed in Texas–have appeared to target Latinos.
“Voter suppression laws and policies threaten to relegate Latino voters to second-class citizenship and impeded their ability to participate fully in American democracy,” warned a 2012 report on Latino voter disenfranchisement by the Advancement Project, a civil-rights group.
Since the civil-rights movement, the public face of voter disenfranchisement has generally been black. African-Americans have been more systematically victimized by efforts to restrict voting than any other group. But while blacks last year appeared to recognize that they were the targets of restrictions on voting, and responded by turning out at a rate few pollsters expected, advocates for Latinos say many don’t yet understand that their rights are at risk.
“There is a lot more work to do in the Hispanic community to get them to connect the dots between the voter suppression movement and their emerging political power,” Juan Cartagena, the president of Latino Justice, told MSNBC.
It’s no coincidence that these threats to Latino voter participation come at a time when the group’s political power is growing rapidly. Latinos now make up 10% of all eligible voters in the U.S., and with 60% of all new citizens in the coming years projected to be Latino, it’ll soon be much more. And because Latinos still punch far below their numerical weight–in 2010, just 31% of eligible Latinos voted, compared to 49% of non-Latino whites and 44% of African-Americans–they’ve got plenty of room to grow.
Republicans know Latinos gave Obama 70 percent of their vote, so they are pulling out the stops to obstruct them at the polls. As Roth adds,
As the targets of these voting crackdowns has expanded to include Latinos, so too has the rationale used to justify them, which now often focuses on the need to prevent non-citizens from voting. But, as with other forms of alleged voter fraud, there’s little evidence to suggest that’s happening. A lengthy investigative report by the Carnegie-Knight initiative found just 56 accusations of non-citizens voting since 2000. Of those, just one ended in a conviction.
Still, broad efforts targeting non-citizens are the next big thing in the “election integrity” movement. Hans Von Spakovsky, a Republican lawyer who has done perhaps more than anyone else to push the case for photo ID and similar measures, told PBS last year that laws requiring people registering to vote to prove their citizenship are “the very next stage after photo ID.”
Roth explains that “Latinos are less likely than non-Latino whites to have a driver’s license in the first place, meaning they’d need a copy of their birth certificate or passport when registering. Those aren’t documents that most people carry around with them at the mall or other locations where voter registration drives tend to take place.” He adds that there is no system in place “to ensure that naturalized citizens–who are disproportionately Latino–aren’t wrongly targeted.” In addition,
…A 2006 study by the Brennan Center found that 16% of Latinos don’t have an acceptable ID, compared to just six percent of non-Hispanic whites. In Texas, where a 2011 voter ID law was blocked by the federal government, more than 400,000 Latinos–nearly 10% of the state’s massive Latino population–live in counties without an office that issues IDs, the Justice Department found.
Suppression of Latino voters continues unabated in key states, like Florida and especially Texas, notes Roth, where Republicans have pretty much declared all-out war against Latino voters:
Nowhere has the fight over Latino political power been as intense as in Texas, where even the redistricting process has been used as a weapon. A federal court found last year that Texas intentionally discriminated against Latinos in its 2011 plan, deliberately carving up districts held by minorities, while protecting those held by Anglos. Lawyers fighting the plan “have provided more evidence of discriminatory intent than we have space, or need, to address here,” a three-judge panel wrote.
Indeed, Lone Star State Democrats say that Republicans have made a decision to give up on Latinos and instead work to keep them from the polls, just as they have with African-Americans.
“They’ve come to the conclusion that they’re not going to win the Latino vote,” Texas Democratic party chair Gilberto Hinojosa told MSNBC. “That for them to develop policies that attract the Latino vote, they automatically alienate the biggest part of their base. So the only way they can avoid the inevitable is to delay Latino voter participation.”
It’s a cold calculation. Republicans know that suppressing Latino votes in Florida and Texas offers them their best chance of winning back the white house. But making kinder, gentler noises about immigration is not likely to fool many Latino voters, who know that the GOP remains wholly dedicated to disempowering their community at the polls.