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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Why Boosting Young Latino Turnout Should Be a Democratic Priority

Damien Cave’s NYT article, “Yes, Latinos Are Rising, but So Are Latino Nonvoters” provides a good update on the potential of Latino voters to determine the outcome of the 2016 election. Here’s an excerpt:

Even though 27 million Latinos will be eligible to cast a ballot in November — an increase of 17 percent since 2012 — the Latino population is becoming more distant from the American political process, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center.
Most Latinos who could vote in the last three national elections chose not to. Turnout was just under 50 percent in 2008, and fell to 48 percent in 2012. It dropped to 27 percent in the 2014 midterms, the lowest rate ever recorded for Latinos.

Cave notes further that “among Latino leaders and social scientists, there is a growing recognition, and increasing concern, that Latinos are punching beneath their weight, and may be stuck in a cycle of disconnection. The question is: Why?” Further, adds Cave:

Pew argues it’s at least partly a matter of demographics. Around 55 million Latinos live in the United States, a group that includes citizens, green-card holders and roughly 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally. In all, that’s about 17 percent of the population (Asian-Americans are about 5.5 percent of the population), but the Latino electorate skews young. Millennials make up a larger share of the Hispanic vote, at 44 percent, than the white (27 percent), black (35 percent) and Asian-American (30 percent) electorates.
Young people are less likely to vote regardless of background. And even among millennials, Hispanic turnout is weaker than that of other groups. Pew researchers found that just 37.8 percent of Latino millennials voted in 2012, compared with 47.5 percent of white millennials and 55 percent of black millennials. Only Asian-American millennials, a smaller group, voted in lower proportion, at 37.3 percent.
Latinos are also concentrated in states that are not heavily contested in presidential elections, making it harder to spur political engagement. Three states — California, New York and Texas — account for 52 percent of all eligible Latino voters, according to Pew. California and New York reliably swing Democratic, and Texas goes Republican in national elections. One exception, Florida, with a large and growing Hispanic population, could prove crucial as a battleground state.

Cave cites voter suppression, with Texas as exhibit A, as a leading reason for low Latino turnout. But there is also political apathy among younger Hispanic voters, partly as a result a sense of hopelessness. He believes that the quality of outreach urging political engagement of Latino eligible voters has been sorely lacking in nuance and quotes Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, who says “The approach has not evolved that much…It’s generally just been, ‘Say a few words in Spanish, with a message about family.’ ”
Republicans’ 2016 Hispanic voter outreach seems to be all about having a couple of Latino presidential candidates, neither one of whom offers anything substantial in the way of educational or employment opportunities. With ‘Millennials’ projected to be nearly half of eligible Latino voters in November, however, Democrats can — and must — provide a message that speaks more directly to the aspirations of young people in Hispanic communities, backed up by a well-organized turnout mobilization.

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