OSAWATOMIE — After Barack Obama firmly clinched the Hispanic vote en route to an election victory Tuesday, conservatives across the nation and right here in Kansas are taking a second look at how they can tap into such an increasingly important voting bloc.
The way Clay Barker sees it, Hispanic voters should be a slam dunk for the GOP. From strong family and religious values to a focus on small business, the executive director of the Kansas Republican Party said the GOP and Hispanics appear to be a match.
“From what I can tell, it seems that the Hispanics should be voting Republican,” Barker said, but he acknowledges that isn’t necessarily the case. “I think the Democrats are a little ahead of us on that.”
According to some advocacy groups, the Republican Party’s biggest roadblock might be itself.
From hardline immigration reform to more stringent voter ID laws — which next year will not only require a photo ID, but proof of citizenship, too — some core conservative issues don’t exactly garner favor with Hispanic voters. And when it comes to election restrictions, KanVote coordinator Louis Goseland couldn’t agree more.
“Statistically, communities of color are less likely to possess these IDs,” Goseland said.
“I think anytime any potential interest is trying to make something as important as voting more difficult, or complicate the process, I think they’re going to lose the favor of voters, period,” he added.
While Barker doesn’t see voting restrictions as a sticking point, he does acknowledge that some attitude adjustment is needed for a small subsection of Republicans. Barker recalled a 2011 scenario where a group of Kansas Republicans gathered at the statehouse to meet with their representative, and accused the official’s Hispanic assistant of being an illegal immigrant.
“That’s what we have to avoid,” Barker said. “There’re a few people that probably see anyone with a Hispanic name and immediately conclude they’re an illegal immigrant. Most people don’t even think about it. It is a definitely a top issue for us, reaching out and making sure we expand the community.”