With 28 million eligible voters, the Latino community has the power to make or break an election.To ensure our voice is heard, we must vote. (Tweet this)
The Center for Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies recently released a report, “The Latino Voter Registration Dilemma,” about the voting demographics of Latinos in the U.S. The report notes there have been increased outreach and voter registration drives, but voter registration numbers are down among Latinos.
So, why aren’t Latinos voting?
Here’s the analysis:
– Both parties have failed to significantly invest in Latino outreach. Sometimes mailers go out six weeks before Election Day. And the parties tend to hire Latino outreach staffer’s just a few weeks before a primary or caucus.
That’s not really “outreach.” Instead of investing in our communities directly, campaigns and candidates lean on organizations such as NCLR, Mi Familia Vota, NALEO, and Voto Latino to appeal to Latino voters. Often times, those candidates fail to ensure their campaigns do educational outreach. As large as these Latino voter organizations are, none seem fully resourced to handle 28 million Latino eligible voters.
– According to the report, the population of Latino citizens 18 and over has increased in the past 25 years. In 1992, there were about 8.8 million Latino eligible voters. This soared to an estimated 28 million in 2016. Yet during the 2012 election cycle, less than half of potential Latino voters made it to the polls.
Some Latinos feel their vote can’t make a difference. We all have friends who avoid politics at all costs. But every vote counts, elections matter, and given the fast paced growth of eligible Latino voters, we CAN and MUST make a difference.
– The report notes that Latinos eligible to vote in 1992 were about 5 percent of the US electorate. By the November 2016 election, it will be about 12 percent. And if you look at some federal and state races, they are much higher, especially in places in the South where the Latino population has almost doubled in some states.
“With higher registration rates, Latinos have the potential to exert much more political influence in the presidential elections,” the report states.
We are not a toss-up minority. We are the second largest growing demographic in the US. Latino voters shouldn’t assume a Latino-sounding last name (I’m looking at you Rubio and Cruz) is sufficient enough to win our vote.
– The report attributes lack of Latino participation on the fact that many Latino voters may not realize what’s at stake. Some do not understand that when they don’t vote, politicians decide their future. These candidates can decide to separate more families when it comes to deportations, strip more resources from Latino communities, block regulations that protect health and the planet, and enact draconian laws that target and profile our community.
With our community under attack, and immigration reform at a standstill, the GOP has gone out of their way to ensure significant delays in the implementation of the President’s executive orders on immigration.
Also of note, Latinos care about climate change. According to this global warming poll,
“54 percent rated global warming as extremely or very important to them personally, compared with 37 percent of whites. Sixty-seven percent of Hispanics said they would be hurt personally to a significant degree if nothing was done to reduce global warming, compared with half of whites.”
– The report also points out that the election process is confusing to some.
This falls on the individual county election offices that administer most federal and state elections. They need to make the process less complicated and do more to educate Latino and communities of color
There are states like California, where the very first Latino Secretary of State has made great strides by first getting the state up to speed on technological advances, allowing for online voter registration and working on compiling county voter files so that entire state can function like voting centers. And counties like Los Angeles that have implemented Silicon Valley style innovations to ensure the voting process can become more accessible, less convoluted, and can run efficiently.
However, there are also states like, Texas and Florida, whose governors have gone out of their way to challenge the Voting Rights Act and continue to propose limiting voter ID laws to keep Latinos and African Americans away from the polls.
– As the report points out:
“Had Latino registration rates been higher, the overall impact of the Latino vote in elections would have been even more significant than it has been.”
While I agree that the voter registration rates and turnout rates among Latino voters must be better, I believe the “Trump effect” makes it abundantly clear what is at stake.
It’s time to realize the powerful potential Latinos have in the voting process. With immigration and climate platforms front and center in the 2016 Presidential election, Latinos can send a clear message to the presidential candidates that we demand our voices heard. But our issues will only be heard if we vote.