Although both political parties in the state continue to target Latino voters as a crucial demographic for November’s presidential election, a recent study shows many eligible Latinos still haven’t registered to vote.
The survey, released Monday by the Pew Research Center, found that the number of Latinos registered to vote in the state has increased more than tenfold since 2004 and currently stands at 102,000. But the state also has the 18th-highest eligible Latino voter population in the nation with 196,000 eligible voters — meaning almost half of these Latino residents have not registered to vote.
But Ivan Parra, executive director of the North Carolina Latino Coalition, said the Latino bloc is increasingly enthusiastic about this year’s election. His organization has helped community leaders encourage Latinos to vote.
He added that while there are some undecided voters, the majority of Hispanic voters favors President Barack Obama over Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
“There are plenty of Latinos trying to figure out who is the right candidate,” he said. “But the majority is leaning toward the Democratic side.”
Political analysts cite immigration issues as a major reason why Latino voters increasingly favor Democratic candidates.
Parra said he believes comprehensive immigration reform is important, but his organization is also focused on issues like employment and access to services.
Justin Gross, a UNC political science professor, said that Republicans like former President Ronald Reagan were more willing to discuss reforms such as legalization for undocumented immigrants. Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986, which aimed to prevent the hiring of illegal immigrants and created a legalization program for some of these immigrants.
But the 9/11 attacks led to opposition to reforms for national security concerns, Gross said.