Indiana Daily Student
Monday, November 1, 2004

Panelists discuss Latino vote

Strong turnout on Tuesday might influence election

by Haley Beck
Indiana Daily Student

Latinos are a much sought after demographic in the 2004 Presidential Election, and Latino Studies Program and Latino Cultural Center, La Casa joined forces last week to host a forum on the role Latinos will play in the upcoming election.

Three panel members gave presentations on different aspects of the impact Latino voters have on American politics.

"The forum is open for discussion, and have a very open and interactive format," said Lillian Casillas, director of La Casa. "Our panelists can help give some historical context."

Casillas said politicians and advertisers are increasingly marketing to the growing Latino community.

According to information provided by panelist Jorge Chapa, director of Latino Studies, the Latino population is not only growing, but doing so much faster than the general population. The Census Bureau estimated that in 2002, slightly more that 13 percent of the population was Latino.

Though still not a majority, the Latino population will have a significant effect on the outcome of the election. The Latino vote holds particular sway in battleground states such as New Mexico, where nearly 30 percent of the voters in 2000 were Latino.

Though Latino voters are usually overwhelmingly Democratic, they represent diverse political agendas. One example is the significant Cuban population in Florida, which, according to panelist and Assistant Professor of Latino Studies Antonio Rafael de la Cova, historically votes Republican because of U.S. relations with Cuba.

"People get frustrated with us, they want one voice," Casillas said during the discussion following the presentations. "We do not have just one voice. That is a frustration for non-Latinos ... sometimes it means we fall through the cracks."

Panelist John Nieto-Phillips, associate professor of history and Latino Studies, mirrored Casillas' sentiment.

"Latinos span the spectrum of political views," he said.

Nieto-Phillips said he feels whatever issues Latinos choose to vote for, it is especially important for them to vote.

"Latinos bear a special burden because registered Latino voters are not representative of their portion of the population," he said. "For those Latinos who do vote, their vote counts for more than just themselves."

Nieto-Phillips also brought up many issues that affect Latino voters such as comparatively low health insurance coverage, and comparatively high poverty and drop-out rates.

"This is a crisis that the federal government is aware of," he said. "Latinos need to contemplate which candidate addresses these problems best for them."

-- Contact staff writer Haley Beck at