According to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials,an estimated 12.2 million Latinos will vote this year,a 25.6 percent increase from 2008.
“We want to show up to vote because we want to see transformative change happen,” Clarissa Martinez-De-Castro,director of immigration and national campaigns for the National Council of La Raza,said. “Our vision for this work … is to create not just more voters but to create more advocacy.”
With more than 50 million Latinos in the United States,an estimated 21.7 million are eligible to participate in the election. Latino voters are especially likely to determine winners in some House seats.
Even with that many voters,some experts say both political parties suppress the Latino vote to some extent.
“The No. 1 reason why Latinos don’t vote or register to vote is very simple – they are not asked to,” Rudy Lopez,political director at the Center for Community Change,said.
Lopez said the political parties do not solicit the Latino vote at the level they should.
“We’ve seen a rash of voter ID laws and a whole host of what you can consider suppression laws that are in effect,” Lopez said. “Out of the top seven or eight states where we’re going to turn out,we’re seeing proposed legislation for voter ID laws.”
Lopez said California,where 37.6 percent of the population is Latino,has proposed such a law.
Minorities are less likely to have photo IDs,meaning they are less likely go to the polls.
Part of the strategy to help Latinos in this situation is to educate them about these laws, Maria Teresa Kumar,executive director of Voto Latino,said.
“What we find that we actually see as an opportunity in this election is how do we identify and start talking to Latinos and saying,‘This is not about a candidate,this election is personal.’” Kumar said.
Martinez-De-Soto said that,although the Latin community is overlooked when it comes to most issue,they face the same dilemmas that all Americans do.
“Every election cycle,I feel there are certain issues that come up about Latino voters over and over again,” Martinez-De-Castro said. “There is no question that the most pressing issue on the Latinos’ mind is the economy and jobs.”
Martinez-De-Castro said that,although the job market tends to draw the most interest, the issue of immigration energizes voters because it is personal.
The growth in the Latino population shaping elections today and the future of voter turnout will be determined by young people. According to NALEO,a fourth of young people in the country are Latino,and in states such as California and Texas,almost half of all teens are Latino.
“There is a political awakening that is happening,that is not being seen by either party,” Kumar said. “I think that is where the opportunity is. We’re part of the menu and not at the table,and until they start making sure we’re at the table,people are not going to start talking about the real issues.”
Reach reporter Salvador Guerrero at [email protected] or 202-326-9867. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.