Latino voters may have the power to swing this year’s Connecticut Senate election.
A report released by Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill on Oct. 25 counted 176,000 registered voters of Hispanic origin in Connecticut, which represents almost nine percent of all registered voters in the state. Both campaigns are making an effort to court the Latino vote, in the hope that appealing to this demographic will swing the election in their favor.
“I think those of us in public service should learn very quickly that it would be wise to listen to the voices of our Hispanic voters in Connecticut,” Merrill said in a statement.
Among Connecticut’s Hispanic voters, 90,012 are registered as Democrats, 71,488 are registered as unaffiliated voters and 14,449 are registered Republicans. Although these numbers show a decided Democratic advantage, a spokesman for Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon, Todd Abrajano ’02, said McMahon has been working to win over Latino voters.
“Linda McMahon has been reaching out directly to Connecticut’s Latino voters for the entire campaign,” Arajano said. “Aside from advertising in Latino newspapers and on Hispanic radio, Linda has done interviews on Latino networks like Univision, conducted campaign events in the homes of Latino supporters and visited Hispanic-focused charitable organizations in Connecticut’s urban communities.”
Matt Barret, the founder of national polling firm Latino Decision, said that the most important issue for Latino voters in this election is the economic recovery, but they also form decisions based on immigration, expanded funding for education and health care access. He added that Latinos have the highest rate of being uninsured.
Diana Enriquez, the president of Latino-affiliated education advocacy group MEChA, agreed that immigration reform, education opportunities and health care access are important political isues to Hispanic voters, adding that Democrats have focused more effort into reaching out to the Latino demographic on that basis.
“The Democratic party over the last 10 years has appeared much more friendly toward Latino voters,” Enriquez said. “They see the Republican party as pretty anti-immigrant. That’s an image that’s been pretty solid.”
The Senate campaign for Democratic candidate Chris Murphy could not be reached for comment.
Merrill noted that there has been a historical disparity between the number of Latinos eligable to vote and those who show up on Election Day.
The communities with the highest numbers of registered Hispanic voters are Bridgeport, with more than 25,519 Hispanic registered voters, and Hartford, with 24,911 Hispanic citizens registered to vote.