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2006.11.20 > For Immediate Release
contact: Tim Kaldahl - University Affairs
phone: 402.554.3502 - email: tkaldahl@mail.unomaha.edu

Report Highlights Growing Hispanic Role in Nebraska Elections

Omaha - A new report issued by the University of Nebraska at Omaha's (UNO) Office of Latino/Latin American Studies points to a future where Hispanic voters will likely play a larger role in deciding elections at both the local and state level.

Nebraska currently has a population of 1.7 million, and more than 122,500 of its citizens are Latino.  The report's author, UNO political science associate professor Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado, cites census figures that point to the state's Latino population as tripling in the next 25 years, from seven percent to more than 20 percent.

"You can certainly turn an election if people are voting as a group," Benjamin-Alvarado said.

The report, "Latino Political Participation in Nebraska: The Challenge of Enhancing Voter Mobilization and Representation," also highlights how the recent immigration debate and its backlash have brought Nebraska Latinos closer together.

"Prior thinking pointed to Latinos being diverse – from different nations and backgrounds – that prevented them from having a unified political outlook," he said.  "The immigration rallies from last spring and summer, the rise of anti-immigrant groups and, finally, this fall's authorization of a 700-mile long border fence between the U.S. and Mexico have changed that.  The importance of the Latino voter has grown and continues to grow."

The estimated 32,000 to 38,000 eligible Latino voters in Nebraska are projected to increase to between 42,000 and 66,000 in 2016, according to the report.  By 2030, eligible Latino voters are expected to make up about 15 percent of the Nebraska electorate, up from four percent.  In some communities, the importance of Latino voting will be seen much sooner.

"Because sizable concentrations of Latinos, verging on the majority, already live in communities such as South Omaha, Lexington, Schuyler, and Grand Island, the possibilities to articulate Latino political interests and perhaps elect Latino officials are highly probable," Benjamin-Alvarado said.

He also said that Nebraska must make an effort to bring Latinos into the political process for the overall good.

"No one wants to see an underclass of people who are disenfranchised.  It serves absolutely no one well," Benjamin-Alvarado said.  "Latinos are here to stay, and everyone wins when they are part of the system."

For more information, call (402) 554-3502.  The report is available online at www.unomaha.edu/ollas/.

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