Latinas played powerful role in 2012 elections
Latinas and other women of color played an historic role in last night’s election, helping President Obama secure key wins in swing states like Ohio, Virginia, Nevada and Colorado. While media analysts are noting the significant women’s vote, in fact Latina and women of color voters provided the winning margin: Seventy-six percent of Latinas and 96 percent of black women voted for Obama. Interestingly, only 65 percent of male Latinos voted for Obama, reflecting the national gender gap.
A significant victory for Latina health happened in Florida, where voters soundly rejected Amendment 6, a ballot measure that would have further restricted insurance coverage for abortion and interfered with personal decision-making. In the weeks and months before the election, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) in partnership with the Miami-based Mi Lola, worked to educate and mobilize Latino/a voters in Florida to oppose this measure, and on election day those efforts were rewarded.
“Latinas, and all women of color, are a powerful constituency, and we proved that on election day,” said Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. “In Florida, we worked with Latinas on the ground to defeat an attack on abortion coverage; in swing states, we cast deciding votes, and across the country, we raised our voices. There is no doubt that we were heard.”
Breaking with popular stereotypes about Latino/a views on social issues, the majority of Latino/as supported marriage equality, and helped propel pro-LGBTQ policies forward with key ballot initiatives in Maryland, Maine and Washington. Immigrants’ rights also saw gains: the work of young Latinas rallying support for Maryland’s DREAM Act was pivotal in its passage.
Throughout the country, Latino/a voters came out in record force for Latina health, favoring candidates who pledged to support polices that protect women’s reproductive decision-making and supporting President Obama and his historic health care gains by more than 70 percent. That’s the largest margin among Latino/as in history, and concern about the Ryan budget and proposed cuts to healthcare helped motivate Latino/as to vote, according to Latino Decisions.
Significant victories by swing state candidates with pro-choice positions, like Tim Kaine in Virginia, and losses by anti-choice extremists Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, demonstrated that voters want to protect access to the full range of reproductive health care.
Florida Ballot Initiative Defeated: Florida’s Amendment 6, which would have further restricted insurance coverage for abortion, including banning public insurance from covering a woman who needs to end a pregnancy, was soundly defeated by 55% of voters. Latino/a voters played a critical role and sent a strong message that they don’t want politicians interfering with a woman’s right to make her own personal, private decisions about abortion.
More Latinos/as in Congress: Though two members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) retired and one member was defeated, the caucus is expected to expand by several members thanks to victories in New Mexico, Florida, Texas and California. The CHC also held on to seats in key districts. Joaquin Castro, brother of San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and state representative for Texas’ 125th District, easily secured Texas’ 20th district to replace the retiring CHC chair. This is a clear sign that Latino/as are continuing to increase both their civic participation and political influence.
Maryland DREAM Act passes: Fueled by advocacy by young Latinas across the country, like Angy Rivera and Benita Veliz, voters in Maryland passed the DREAM Act. This victory paves the way for a national movement that will support young Latinas, regardless of their immigration status.
Latinos “won” the swing states: Latino/as and women of color are credited with tipping the key states in the presidential race, solidifying their growing importance in the U.S. electorate and ensuring that future candidates will ignore Latina issues at their peril.
Women in the Senate: This year’s Senate class includes 19 women, the largest number in history, including Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), the Senate’s first openly gay member.
Akin, Mourdock, and Walsh lose: Voters showed that legislators who don’t respect women’s rights to make to personal, private decisions about abortion don’t belong in Congress.
LGBTQ equality prevails: Voters in Maryland, Maine, Minnesota and likely Washington all supported the fundamental right of LGTBQ people, including Latinas, to marry who they love.
The new majority carried the night: A new American majority of people of color, single women, young people (a high percentage of whom are Latino/a) and LGBTQ Americans turned out to vote and fueled election-night victories.
Joe Arpaio wins: Despite an important grass-roots movement led by Latino/as in Arizona, anti-immigration candidate Sheriff Joe Arpaio will remain in his post. NLIRH will continue to work with Latinas on the ground in Arizona to hold Arpaio accountable for his misguided policies and indefensible rhetoric.
Anti-immigrant candidates win: Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Steve King (R-Iowa) will unfortunately return to Congress. Both candidates have used harmful, negative rhetoric about immigrants. Earlier this year King compared immigrants to dogs and Flake voted against the DREAM Act in 2010 and has been reluctant to support a pathway to citizenship.
“Latinas and women of color secured important victories last night, but our work is not done,” González-Rojas said. “Our job now is to ensure the President and other policymakers continue to find solutions that make quality, afford health care more accessible for Latinas, increase and protect the rights of immigrants, and ensure that every woman has access to the reproductive health care she needs, regardless of how much money she has or her source of insurance.”
The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health is the only national organization working on behalf of the reproductive health and justice of the 20 million Latinas, their families and communities in the United States through public education, community mobilization and policy advocacy.