Early Counting of the Latino Vote
November 06, 2012

There's been lots of talk this afternoon about Latino voters and their numbers in today's elections. Many of those numbers are coming from assumptions about who exactly IS a Latino voter -- and that raises a whole multitude of questions.

Folks counting Latino voter numbers this early throughout the country have to rely on best guess assumptions, such as precincts where predominantly Latinos live, or Spanish surnames.

Promise Arizona is one group encouraging Latino voters to register. It claims 111,975 Latinos voted early as of yesterday in Arizona and 70,754 voted already in Maricopa County as of Friday.

I spoke with an employee there about their methodology. It stacks up with the methods used by other organizations throughout the country. Groups will go through voter registration forms, looking for how people identify themselves. Or they'll use computer programs that will scroll through voter files and pick out Latino sounding names.

Now folks at Promise Arizona says this early counting method is not meant to be an exact science but to serve as a good estimation of how Latinos are voting and where. But it can certainly lead to a lot of assumptions about who is who. Take the name, Castro. It can be:

  • A Cuban-American who's lived in the U.S. for 37 years and voted Republican since the Carter Administration.
  • Or it can be a recently immigrated Mexican who is voting for Gray Johnson for the first time. - Or it can be a Mexican-American whose great-grandparents immigrated here from Chihuahua, has never been back to Mexico and doesn't speak the language.

Like all elements of election day, any of those results can be wildly different once the elections are over.