The 2020 US presidential election saw a once-in-a-century voter turnout, giving the two political parties a huge boost in the number of votes ever recorded in an election. One of the factors responsible for this is the surge in the number of eligible immigrant voters from 12 million in 2000 to 23.2 million in 2020.
The figure represents a record high 10 percent of the U.S. electorates—an exponential growth from just 6.2 percent in the 2000 presidential election. The surge, coupled with the massive pre-election awareness campaigns, helped spark an unprecedented level of interest and participation among immigrant voters.
Interestingly, while the general immigrant voting power poses a huge influence on the overall election outcome, their voting behavior has never been monolithic. They are made of different ethnic groups, have different social and religious backgrounds—thereby share different political ideologies. This explains why an African-American immigrant voter and Asian-American voter may prefer different candidates in an election. At the same time, even within the same ethnic group, there exists a diversity of political interests and ideologies. For instance, the Latino votes in Florida could go to the Republicans while the Latino votes in Arizona could go to the Democrats in the same election.
It is also worth noting that their voting patterns aren’t static. An immigrant community may favor a party in this election and switch to the other side in the next election. The last election has many examples of this scenario. For instance, many cities in New York, California, and Florida had some notable shifts from what transpired in 2016. In Cook County, Chicago, 2,158 precincts have shifted right since 2016, compared with 1,508 that have shifted left. In Chicago’s Chinatown, the Republicans had a 34 percent increase from what they got in 2016, while contrastingly, the Democrats recorded a drop of 6 percent. Although the Democrats candidate, Joe Biden, still won in almost all of these places, however, the shifts represent the flexibility in immigrants’ voting behaviors.
Despite the diverse patterns, however, the continuous surge could be an advantage to the country’s political leaders depending on how they play their electoral cards. The outcome shows that somehow both sides benefited from the massive turnout of 159,633,396 million votes. Out of the total votes cast, President Biden pulled 81,283,098 (51 percent), the highest to be recorded by any presidential candidate. Former President Donald Trump also had a record 74,222,958 votes (46.8 percent), more than what any presidential candidate has ever pulled, with the exception of President Biden of course. And 1.8 percent of the votes cast went to third-party candidates. To a considerable extent, immigrant voters influenced the outcome of the election. This is because they are well represented in some of the states won by Biden. For instance, in California, New York, and Hawaii, eligible immigrant voters respectively represent 21 percent, 18 percent, and 15 percent of the total voter population in those states.
Another notable development in the election is the increase in people of color in elected offices. Apart from VP Harris Kamala, who made history as the first person of color to occupy that position, the new House also consists of about 28 percent of people of color. This includes 43 Latino Americans, 16 Asian Americans, and 57 Black Americans. Compared with the 116th Congress, the number of House members from these three ethnic groups increased by 7 percent. The huge participation and increase in elected offices show that people of color aren’t just growing in the figure, they are also improving their representations in key positions.
The 2020 election had a record high of 32 million eligible Latino voters (the highest among ethnic groups), 30 million Black eligible voters, and 11 million eligible voters. The figures reflect how the voting influence of foreign-born Americans and their children has grown over the years.
The past few decades have seen incredible growth in the foreign-born American voting population. Factors responsible include the continuous increase in the number of naturalized American citizens. Every year, hundreds of thousands of immigrants receive US citizenship. In 2019 alone, there were more than 840,000 newly naturalized Americans. Apart from the naturalized route, children born to immigrant citizens are also increasing the figure, as many of them have already attained the voting age, and many more are to join in coming elections. In 1965 when the Immigration and Nationality Act became effective, there were 9.6 million immigrants, and they made up of just 5 percent of the country’s population. Fast forward to now, the figure has risen to over 44 million (13.7 percent). In some decades from now, the U.S. foreign-born population is projected to trump the white population.
The 2020 election had a record high of 32 million eligible Latino voters (the highest among ethnic groups), 30 million Black eligible voters, and 11 million eligible voters. The figures reflect how the voting influence of foreign-born Americans and their children has grown over the years. The United States is an immigrant-friendly country, a situation that has mutually benefited the country and its foreign-born population. This implies that the exponential growth will continue and keep influencing the country’s political terrain.
Olusegun Akinfenwa is a political correspondent for ImmiNews, a UK based organization that covers political and social events from around the world.