Lessons learned on future elections and voters of color

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Photo by Terry Chay/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Political observers are sifting through the lessons of the November 6 vote, in which unprecedented numbers of Latinos and Asian Americans cast ballots.

By now, everyone has read or heard about the way President Obama harnessed the majority of votes from women, blacks, Latinos, and Asians — and about what this may spell for the future of the Republican Party.

But what does that say about future elections? Observers like Fernando Guerra expect more minority candidates for office in the future – but he’s wary about mainstream polls that often misread trends.

“Obama has won reelection; Latinos had tremendous turnout. What difference does it make that Latinos had tremendous impact?” Guerra asked a room full of participants at Cal State, LA's Pat Brown Institute's 20th Annual California Policy Issues Conference.

The director of the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University offered as one example the contest between Democrat Raul Ruiz and Republican incumbent Mary Bono Mack in California’s 36th Congressional District.

“When Raul Ruiz, who ended up beating Mary Bono Mack out in the desert, first decided to run, and constantly heard that, there’s no way he’s going to win because of the ‘turnout model’," Guerra explained. "What President Obama and his campaign showed is that you can change the ‘turnout model’; it’s not a given.”

The “turnout model” is the idea that a poll is a scientific prediction of a new election based on the results of previous ones. That model is quickly becoming obsolete, said Guerra, who is also on the KPCC board of trustees.

But many voters of color still aren't participating in proportion to their numbers. California is home to more than 14 million Latinos; they are 32 percent of the state’s adult population. But Latinos account for only 20 percent of registered voters.

Civic participation over the next four years will decide whether the “turnout model” for the next presidential election is gone for good.

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