Ruben Hernandez

Ay, what a year!

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2012 election increases Latino voter turnout, counting snafus

Latinos turned out in record numbers nationally and in Arizona for the November elections. They heavily favored Obama in swing states and manifested their new status as an organized voter segment with a powerful influence on national and state elections. Nationally, Obama garnered 71 percent of the Hispanic vote and Mitt Romney 27 percent, a gap of 44 percent. Arizona Latinos, bolstered by intense voter registration campaigns instigated by 12 groups statewide, significantly increased their share of the total number of state voters by 23 percent compared with 2008, gaining influence that could be decisive in future elections. These efforts also added Latinos to early voting lists, from 96,000 in 2008 to 225,000 this year. Also, more Latinos won seats in the State Legislature. 

In Maricopa County, election officials attributed the need for 300,000 additional ballots to the large increase in Latino voter registration. About half of this number were provisional ballots for first-time Latino voters. A two-week delay in counting all the ballots left some races up in the air, with some community advocates claiming electoral fraud. Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett said his office would study ways to streamline the counting process for the next election.

Arizona sends five Democrats to Congress

SinemaArizona Democrats won five seats and the Republicans four in the House of Representatives. Our state sent a majority-Democrat delegation to Washington, D.C., for only the second time in 45 years. Democrats Kyrsten Sinema, Ann Kirkpatrick and Ron Barber won seats in competitive districts in November. Democrats Ed Pastor and Raul Grijalva easily won re-election. Democrat Richard Carmona was defeated by Republican Jeff Flake in his bid for Congress. Some of the races were so tight that the outcomes weren’t certain until several days after the election. The Congressional races this year were made more competitive by once-in-a-decade re-districting.

Adiós Arpaio coalition narrowly misses in ousting sheriff

Controversial Maricopa County sheriff, Joe Arpaio, hung on to win his election by six percentage points, the lowest percentage in his long career. The near ousting was coordinated by a coalition of groups, including Adios Arpaio (a project of the hospitality workers union), Unite Here, and the community organizing group, Promise Arizona. In addition, Randy Parraz’ group, Citizens for a Better Arizona, and some Latino elected officials joined the effort to defeat the sheriff. The U.S. Justice Department’s accusation of racial profiling against Arpaio in 2011 and his continued “sweeps” of undocumented immigrants at workplaces mobilized Latino voters and their allies against him. Despite the sheriff’s narrow win, his political opponents also are claiming victory because they have created a movement that will continue to challenge him during his current term and possible future re-election bid. “In four years, we’re going to do it again,” said Lucia Vergara, president of Unite Here. After the election, Arpaio said he wanted to develop better communication with the Latino community.


The Real Arizona Coalition

Just before 2012 came to a close, the Real Arizona Coalition (RAC) presented a proposal for national immigration reform.

The Coalition’s “S.A.N.E. Solution to Federal Immigration Reform” proposes that undocumented immigrants should be issued temporary visas, but requires them to pay a fine and back taxes owed. The proposal suggests a path to legal residency and citizenship via a legal process that Congress would determine. 

RAC leaders include Republican Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, attorney Danny Ortega, and business leaders Lisa Urias and Denise Resnick. Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and other elected and appointed officials have expressed support for the Coalition and its proposal.

RAC members plan to present their policy points to Congress in 2013. 

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