New data from the U.S. Census Bureau reveals a decline in African American and Hispanic American voter registration since 2008, the Washington Post reports. This marks the first significant drop in the number of Latino voters in nearly 40 years.
In recent years, Republicans across the country have engaged in a systematic attempt to suppress voter turnout by pushing legislation to address the largely fictitious issue of “voter fraud.” Their efforts has included bills to make it harder to register new voters, strictly require photo identification in order to vote, and eliminating day-of voter registration. Much of this push has been organized by corporate front group ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council).
Some experts blame the economy for the the decrease in minority voter registration:
Voter rolls typically shrink in non-presidential election years and registrations among whites fell at roughly the same rate, but this is the first time in nearly four decades that the number of registered Hispanics has dropped significantly. That figure fell 5 percent across the country, to about 11 million, according to the Census Bureau. But in some politically important swing states, the decline among Hispanics, who are considered critical in the 2012 presidential contest, is much higher: just over 28 percent in New Mexico, for example, and about 10 percent in Florida. For blacks, whose registration numbers are down 7 percent nationwide, and Hispanics, the large decrease is attributed to the ailing economy, which forced many Americans to move in search of work or because of other financial upheaval.
“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.”
But with the push for voter identification laws and other efforts that disproportionally disenfranchise minorities, it should come as little surprise that these nationwide efforts are having the intended affect.
Civil rights lawyer Judith Browne Dianis of the Advancement Project told the Post “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.”
Democrats have expressed concern over the numbers. But rather than worrying about disenfranchisement of voters, some in the GOP are cheering the news. Republican National Committee spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski told boasted that with the decline in minority voter registration, her party has “really closed the gap in key battleground states,” for party registration.
The Obama campaign released a statement questioning the accuracy of the Post story. The campaign calls the data out of date, notes that “when you compare the number of Latino and African American voters in November 2010 to those in November 2006, or compare the rolls in May 2012 to May 2008, it’s clear that the number goes up, not down, in each case,” and asserts that Latino and African American voter registration has never been higher.