The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) hailed two historic milestones for the Latino community coming out of the 2004 election. First, an unprecedented number of Latinos went to the voting booth on Tuesday. At least seven million Latinos and perhaps as many as 9.6 million turned out to vote, representing a dramatic increase from the 2000 presidential election. Second, for the first time ever, there will be two Latinos in the United States Senate, ending a nearly 30-year-old drought for Hispanic representation in that body.
"The extraordinary turnout of Latino voters, together with historic representation in the Senate, establishes the Latino community as an electorate to be reckoned with," stated Janet Murguia, NCLR Executive Director and COO. "The Latino community has demonstrated the influential role it is playing, and will continue to play, in American politics. We are inspired by the strong motivation of Hispanic voters, particularly first-time voters - overcoming information and language barriers - to make sure that their voices were heard in this election. The increased Hispanic voter turnout proves the success of our voter engagement programs and assistance hotlines, and we will continue our efforts to increase Latino participation in the political process."
"Moreover, NCLR is greatly encouraged by the election of Ken Salazar, Mel Martinez, and also Barack Obama who, through their victories, are sending a clear message that minorities have broad candidate appeal, and that the Senate, the 'world's most deliberative body,' should not be devoid of representation from the country's two largest ethnic minorities," added Murguia.
In addition to the growth in participation, Latino turnout in this election also illustrated the complex nature of this electorate. The National Electoral Pool (NEP) exit poll numbers, for example, show that among Latinos as many as 44% supported President Bush and 53% Senator Kerry. This is clear confirmation of what reports by NCLR and other organizations have stated - that Hispanics cannot be simplistically or accurately characterized as a core constituency for either party.
"I look forward to working with President Bush as he begins his second term, encouraging him to build on his successful campaign by ensuring that Latinos are fully represented in his administration; by developing education, health, economic, and immigration reform policies that work for Hispanics; and by building meaningful avenues for collaboration with Latino organizations and leaders," concluded Murguia.