There are many reasons to oppose the currently proposed immigration reforms, including the lack of strong and enforceable border control. But one issue has often been voiced as a top concern within the conservative movement: that a pathway to citizenship could lead to 11 million new voters who overwhelmingly vote for Democrats.
In a country where roughly 140 million turn out to vote in national elections, this would be a healthy increase of about 7%. Sounds like a doomsday scenario at first glance. An increase of 11 million mostly Democratic voting citizens could undo the Republican Party in national elections. But conservatives worried about electoral landslides (and Democrats hopeful for the same) are probably greatly over-estimating the impact that immigration reform will have on future elections.
Will There Even be 11 Million New Voters?
A “pathway to citizenship” doesn’t mean that all current illegal aliens will become citizens. Eligibility to try to become a citizen neither means that they will indeed become a citizen nor that they necessarily even want to. Some will be happy with some form of legal status that let’s them stay in the country, while others may never even start the process of citizenship. Some may simply ignore the new reforms altogether and continue to live their lives the way they currently are either because they are comfortable in their current situation or fear the laws could later be repealed. Undoubtedly some will desperately want to become US Citizens and eventually will be able to vote. But not all 11 million or so illegal aliens will become citizens, and the actual numbers of who will are unknowable. Even with those who want to become citizens, it will take a very long time for that to kick in. The GOP should have at least a decade to work on convincing the soon-to-be citizens that liberalism is what they are escaping when they make their way to the US.
Illegal Alien Populations Highest in Non-Swing States
In Presidential and Senate elections, where the immigrant populations are is more important than who they vote for. According to Department of Homeland Security statistics, 75% of the illegal immigrant population lives in just 10 states. Almost a quarter of the overall illegal immigrant population lives in California alone. Other blue states in the top 10 include New York, Illinois, New Jersey, and Washington. Just these 5 states account for 41% of the illegal alien population. Obama won all of them by more than 15 points. Texas holds the second largest total of the illegal alien population, with 16% of the overall population. Democrats think Texas is their next blue state, but Romney still won there by 16 points without trying. Add in red states Georgia and Arizona and the top 8 non-swing states account for 63% of the total illegal alien population. Florida ranked third on the list and is a key swing state. But unlike California, Florida Hispanics also have swung their vote, having voted for Bush and Rubio with greater than 55% in 2004 and 2010, respectively.
Low Turnout Rates
How reliable are Hispanic voters? How reliable would new citizens be at voting? That 11 million voter number easily gets chopped in half when taking voter turnout into consideration. While white and black voter turnout hover in the 60-65% range, Hispanic turnout has historically stayed under 50%. Even the massive voter turnout machine deployed by the Obama campaign failed to bring Hispanic turnout figures into competitive territory. Of course, that all could change down the road and turnout could eventually hit the 60% mark. But even then, the 11 million figure takes a huge hit.
Some Illegal Aliens are Already Voting
If conservatives want to add a good law to the immigration reform mix, stronger laws regarding voter identification requirements would be a good start. There’s an assumption that all illegal-alien-turner-citizen votes would be “new.” But thanks to hard-to-enforce laws and Obama Department of justice lawsuits, preventing illegal aliens from voting is often difficult. Liberals oppose anti-fraud voter laws requiring either photo identification or proof of citizenship. In many states, all one needs to do is “promise” they are a US citizen in order to vote. In Florida, the DOJ sued to prevent the state from removing dead and illegal voters from rolls ahead of the 2012 election. It’s unknowable how many illegal aliens have voted or if the number is even significant, but given the recent anything-goes voter push by the Obama campaign, we’d expect their is at least a sizable number of illegal aliens already voting. After all, if we can’t stop people from casting several ballots each or from the afterlife, it’s probably not impossible to vote as an illegal alien.
Do the Math
11 Million New Voters? At least 2 Million aren’t old enough to vote. We’ll be generous and say that 75% of the new 9 million figure actually become citizens. Now we are at under 7 million new voters. Their turnout rate? At max, 50% historically. And that’s with Obama pushing a heavy turnout machine. Realistically speaking, that brings us to 3.5 million who might actually vote in national elections. Assuming the worst (for calculation purposes) that conservatives are unable to improve their standing in the voting booths, that gives us 2.45 million new Democratic voters and 1.05 million new Republican voters, or a net of 1.3 million new Democratic voters.
And the overall impact? Remember that just in the top 10 states, 63% of illegal immigrants live in eight states that are currently too red or too blue to matter whether they vote or not. Will illegal immigration have some impact on national elections? Sure. But at worst, we are talking a 500,000 voter gap across 42 states, many of which are still too blue or red to be impacted. And the swing states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Pennsylvania all have relatively small numbers of illegal immigrants. Such figures are easily wiped out by momentum for a candidate. Hispanics gave 44% of their vote to George W. Bush in 2004 and just 27% to Mitt Romney in 2012. Land somewhere between Bush and Romney, and the new votes are mostly insignificant. Overall, the potential impact of new voters is far less dramatic than many would suggest, and nothing that couldn’t be easily overcome by a marginally inspiring Republican candidate.