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Why Bernie Sanders Really Did Win Nevada’s Hispanic Vote


The William C. Velásquez Institute (WCVI) ran a Latino exit poll in 2004 helping to prove that President Bush took a substantially smaller portion of the hispanic vote than exit polls initially projected. WCVI’s President Antonio Gonzalez has reviewed available information about Saturday’s Democratic Party caucus in Nevada and has concluded that Senator Bernie Sanders did, in fact, win the Latino vote. WCVI’s Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP) was on the ground in Nevada ahead of the caucuses. Gonzalez is not at all impressed with skepticism by the New York Times’ Nate Cohn and‘s Nate Silver about entrance poll numbers. “This whole dispute is baloney. I don’t dispute the Edison numbers at all,” Gonzalez told me by phone earlier this evening.

Gonzalez reviewed ABC News and the entrance poll company Edison Research’s rationale for why Clinton may have won in concentrated areas of Latino voters in Clark County and still lost the overall state vote with Latinos by as much as eight percent. “It makes sense to me,” he said.

Cohn, election numbers guru for the New York Times, tweeted before the Nevada results were even finalized that he had doubts about the entrance poll numbers for Latino voters. Silver, founder of 538, immediately concurred. Cohn has written two New York Times’ posts on the topic since, with his key argument centering around Clinton winning Clark County, and especially Latino districts in East Las Vegas by a substantial margin. Cohn calls Edison’s pegging of 18-29 year old at 38% of the Latino vote Saturday one of two smoking guns and  “an unrealistic number that helps explain how the poll could have been off.”

In a press release, Gonzalez and WCVI lamented that “[l]ost in this controversy is the fact that the data shows a record high Latino vote share in the Democratic Caucuses with Latinos representing 19% of the vote compared to 13% in 2008.”

WCVI is “one of the nation’s largest Latino voter registration groups.” It has worked since 1985 out of Los Angeles and San Antonio under a non-partisan mandate to get as many Latinos as possible registered and to the polls on election days, and will be hosting Latino Vote Summits in several key states beginning this Friday at the University of Texas San Antonio. SVREP’s work in Nevada saw Gonzalez quoted for a story in the Los Angeles Times last Wednesday suggesting that millennial Latinos, who may make up almost half of all eligible Latino voters in the U.S. in 2016, might just make the difference in the outcome.

“The leadership that is older is all Clinton, but the younger Latinos, they’re with Sanders,” Gonzalez told the Times. “Gonzalez said the rift is present in his own family. ‘My daughters are Sanders people,’ he said. ‘My wife is with Hillary’.”

In their press release, Gonzalez and WCVI conclude that “the Clinton margin of victory is adequately explained by the large margin of victory Secretary Clinton won among African American voters. … there is no statistical basis to question the Latino vote breakdown between Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders.”

I asked Gonzalez if he thought the narrative set out by Nate Silver in July suggesting that Bernie Sanders might not be able to win with non-white voters was having an undue influence in the dispute. “That is a huge mistake,” Gonzalez said with great passion. “It’s not unusual for the Yankees. They are seeing through a black-white prism.”

While Hillary Clinton, by all measures, is handily winning over black voters by margins of up to fifty percentage points or more, there is no recent data showing similar spreads with hispanic voters. While Clinton showed a comfortable early lead with Latina and Latino voters, poll after poll recently has put Clinton’s lead with hispanic voters at a much more modest rate, similar to her overall lead, between thee and seventeen points, with one recent poll in Colorado suggesting that Sanders is ahead with Democratic Latino voters there.

Blithely ignoring the data, 538 and a clamorous cast of pundits following in their wake have consistently rolled black and brown into one lump sum and used far more well-known numbers for African American voters to apply to all people of color.

But Latino politics, while similar in composition, is radically different from Black politics in crucial ways, according to Gonzalez. “Black politics is vertically integrated. That’s not common in Latino politics. Latinos often don’t even know who their elected officials are.”

Gonzalez continued, “the norm in black politics is to get your marching orders from black leaders. That is not the norm in the Latino electorate. It’s completely plausible and reasonable that Latinos voted against their leaders in picking Bernie Sanders.”

At this point, Gonzalez does the math out loud with me. The low turnout of 80,000 matters enormously here, he says. With Latinos making up 15,000 of those 80,000, it is not at all unreasonable to think that the Sanders campaign helped get 6,000 18-29-year-olds to the polls. “That’s no big deal for a campaign with an inspirational message for young people like the Bernie Sanders campaign clearly has.” Six-thousand is, in fact, “what you’d expect from a good campaign like this.”

Adding to high turnout for young Latina/os, according to Gonzalez, were Nevada’s allowance for both same day and online registration. “I am certain that the Sanders campaign was well aware of these rules and used them to the hilt.” CounterPunch has contacted the Nevada Secretary of State to inquire about new voter registrations in the run-up to Saturday. A spokewoman told us they would get back to us, likely today, but that “the short answer” is that, while they have overall totals, they do not have information broken down by demographics such as age and ethnicity.

According to Gonzalez, the fun is just beginning. Nevada, with the 11th highest Latino voter population in the U.S., was the first of eleven states in the top twenty by Latino voter population that will go to the polls within the next month. They all have 100,000 or more eligible Latina and Latino voters for a total of more than 6,000,000 registered voters. “The Latino Gauntlet,” as Gonzalez calls it. The others are Michigan (12), Illinois (7), Massachusetts (14), Colorado (8), Texas (2), Florida (3), Arizona (5), Virginia (17), North Carolina (18), and Georgia (20), all of which have Democratic caucuses or primaries between now and March 22.

“This is Bernie Sanders chance to break out of the Nate Silver box,” Gonzalez concluded. “Will he do it? We don’t know yet.”

Doug Johnson Hatlem is best known for his work as a street pastor and advocate with Toronto’s homeless population from 2005-2013. He is now a film producer and free-lance writer based in Chicago.

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