Policy scholars host discussion on importance of Latino vote

October 3, 2012

Experts on Latino politics gathered on Tuesday night at a roundtable discussion about the importance of the Latino vote in the 2012 election.

Cristina Beltrán, moderator of the panel and director of Latino Studies in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, said she wanted to highlight the growing importance of Latino voters through this event.

“I hope that the panel reflects the diversity in interpretation and scholarship among Latino political scientists, [since] the scholars on this panel differ in their views regarding the Latino electorate, and that those debates reflect the richness of the field of Latino politics,” she said.

Panelists discussed immigration, the idea of Latinos as a swing vote, the role of Latina voters and topics that are considered Latino issues for the election.

Rodolfo de la Garza, a professor of international affairs at Columbia University, spoke first and stated that the growing number of Latinos in the states translates into a rise in electoral votes for the state. The problem, however, is that not all of these new Latino citizens head to voting booths during election season. This, he said, skews the results.

De la Garza also talked about how political views vary depending on generations and how long an immigrant has been living in the United States.

“Latino ethnicities are distinguished as a community around the issues of a big state,” de la Garza said. “They think the government should provide health care. They think the government should help you if you’re looking for work. And they think the government should provide a guaranteed income if you don’t have any.”

Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto, a senior analyst for Latino Decisions at the University of Texas, said the media focuses too much on the issue of immigration for Latinos. She added that there are more Latinos concerned with the economy.

“Immigration is not going to sway the voter,” Soto said. “But immigration can be used as a mobilization tactic by both campaigns.”

Angelo Falcón, president of the National Institute of Latino Policy, urged Latinos to take time to understand the election process.

“It’s been brought to my attention that the voting process, which a lot of people say is very simple, is not as simple as people sometimes make it to be,” Falcón said. “It’s very complicated kind of process and one that we need to look at more carefully.”

For Steinhardt junior Jaimie Appleton, the event helped open her eyes to the variety of opinions within — what seemed to be — a uniform Latino identity.

“It’s a political group that I don’t necessarily know a lot about because I’m not Latino,” Appleton said. “It’s really fascinating to hear their collective opinion and what they agree on but what they also disagree on and it really furthers that idea of how diverse the group of people is itself.”

A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Oct. 3 print edition. Julie DeVito is a senior editor. Email her at jdevito@nyunews.com.

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