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Latino voting power becomes critically important as the state votes in January to determine control of the US Senate.

More than 130,000 people have naturalized in Georgia since 2014, a number of potential new voters that exceeds the state’s margin of victory for the 2020 presidential election, and could sway the outcome of the 2021 Georgia Senate runoff elections, a new report shows.

The announcement from the National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA) was released Dec. 17 during a virtual press conference.

The findings demonstrated that in Georgia the largest numbers of naturalized citizens from 2014-2018 were originally from Mexico. In fact, according to Pew Research, the state is home to over 1 million Latinos, 45% of whom are of Mexican origin. Puerto Ricans account for 20%, with Cubans, Salvadorans, and Dominicans making up 12 to 13% of the state’s Latino population.

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Additionally, nearly two-thirds of newly naturalized citizens in the state from 2014 to 2018 were under the age of 45 when they naturalized, the NPNA report found.

“This multi-racial, multi-generational voting bloc represents a powerful political force that already began to flex their power at the polls in November,” said Nicole Melaku, executive director of NPNA, which conducted the study in collaboration with Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ), Atlanta, the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO), and Latino Community Fund (LCF) Georgia.

Latino Power

As Georgia heads into two key runoffs that will determine control of the US Senate, this power becomes critically important. Democrats want to make sure Latinos turn out again, emphasizing immigration and COVID-19 relief in their campaigns. 

According to Jerry González, executive director of GALEO, “over 250,000 Latinos registered to vote in Georgia, many of whom are naturalized citizens. Additionally, the Latino voter participation rate in Georgia has surpassed the national average—not just this election cycle, but several election cycles prior.” 

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This is supported by an Associated Press (AP) Votecast survey that found that 3% of Georgia’s 5 million voters in November were Latino, and 60% of them voted for Biden, versus 30% for Trump. In fact, Biden’s 36,000-vote margin among Latinos was more than double his overall winning margin in the state.

Anayely Moreno, a Gainesville resident and the daughter of Mexican immigrants, told the AP that the prime motivator driving her to the ballot box is the struggles endured by immigrants in a state where sentiment against them has often been harsh.

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“We don’t notice all the ways it affects every aspect of our lives,” said Moreno, who volunteers with Georgia Familias Unidas, a group that offers COVID-19 assistance to families and encourages them to vote. “No matter what you’re doing, our lives are affected by policy.”

Action Is Needed

The NPNA makes it clear that Latinos could be the decisive voting bloc in the state’s Jan. 5 runoffs, when two Republican incumbents for the US Senate, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, run against Democratic challengers the Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

The runoffs are necessary because none of the Senate candidates surpassed the 50% threshold required to win statewide offices in Georgia.

“At a time when anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies are widespread in our country, these new American voters are raising their voices and swaying the outcomes of elections at all levels,” added Melaku. “They now have the opportunity to do the same for the Georgia Senate runoff. But in order to exercise that power, they must go out and vote.”