Republicans spent nearly the entire election trying to impede minorities from voting, redistricting to divide races and introducing discriminatory voter-ID bills. But their efforts proved fruitless Tuesday — at least in the big race. Exit polls showed minorities overwhelmingly supported President Obama, and Latinos could have possibly swayed the election.
"Ten percent of the electorate in the U.S. is now Latino," said Armando Bellmas, spokesman for the Latin American Coalition, during a press conference Wednesday. "Yesterday's election is a bit of a wake-up call for politicians and policy makers ... No party or candidate is going to be able to ignore the Latino vote going forward."
Obama picked up more Latino votes in swing states than he did in 2008. Though official numbers won't be released for another nine days, Bellmas and executive director Jess George estimate at least 75,000 Latinos voted in North Carolina, adding that the turnout probably will be smaller than that of other states because the population here is younger. But, those kids will eventually become adults. According to the National Council of La Raza, 878,000 Latino children will turn 18 every year until 2028.
"That's pretty critical for candidates and public policy," Bellmas said. "The more I think about it, it's staggering."
Polls conducted before the election showed 64 percent of Latinos felt that Obama cared about Latinos, while 70 percent felt hostility from Romney. But George admitted Latinos aren't wholly satisfied with Democrats. During three years of his presidency, Obama deported about 1 million undocumented immigrants, more than any president in over 50 years. But he supported the DREAM Act, while Romney vowed to veto any type of similar legislation.
"Neither one of the parties has been particularly favorable on immigration or supportive of the Latino vote," George said. "They both need to step up. It would be stupid for them not to pay attention."
While Democrats made big gains nationally, Republicans swept North Carolina. Former Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory will serve as the first Republican governor in 24 years, and the GOP now holds a super majority in the General Assembly.
"It is concerning that both the Assembly and governor are Republican ... concerning because it is the Republican-led assembly that's pushing forward on anti-immigration legislation," George said. But she's cautiously optimistic that McCrory's "pro-business" attitude will make him an ally.
"It would be an erroneous assumption to look at the thriving success of [Charlotte], that he took a leadership role in, and dismiss that as accidental ... and say immigrants had nothing to do with it," she said. "We're hoping McCrory has the vision and guts to stand up for what's good for the state and not just rubber stamp 'yes' on everything that the Assembly sends through to him."
George ended the discussion by demanding that North Carolina's leaders abandon "economically devastating and unconstitutional" anti-immigration policies and work toward passing immigration reform that keeps families together and creates a path to citizenship for immigrants "who contribute on a daily basis."
"We are only hurting ourselves and our communities if we institutionalize poverty for the fastest-growing population in the country."