With all that in mind, the question remains: can Latinos swing an election? The evidence presented thus far seems to paint a picture of little hope, where Latinos, despite their growing numbers, are unlikely to vote even in Presidential Elections. While California Latinos tend to vote at higher numbers, the hope would be for Latinos across the country to be voting at higher rates. To put it into perspective, the current US electorate is comprised of predominately white voters, though the percentage of white voters has declined in recent years as the US becomes more diverse, as the table below shows.
The authors remind us that Latinos are less likely to be registered to vote in the first place, and are less likely to be able to vote. Latinos are also less likely to be politically involved, and less likely to actually vote. Thus, it would seem that Latinos should not be able to swing an election.
That said, Latinos currently make up almost 20% of the total US population, at over 62 million people (out of 330 million). In fact, Latinos are poised to make up 25% of the total population by 2050, if not sooner. In addition to this, the overall Latino electoral base is increasing at a faster rate than any other group. There has been a 21% gain among naturalized Latinos that vote, and a 21% increase among second generation Latinos. Thus, it would seem that Latinos can actually swing an election.
. Thus, it would seem that Latinos can actually swing an election.
Thus, it would seem that Latinos can actually swing an election.
While the rate of Latinx participation increased in '08, it was still smaller than expected.
o can Latinos swing an election? The research shows that there are effective ways at reaching out to mobilize Latinos to vote. One way of getting folks to vote is by teaching them about politics -- like you all are doing! Learning about politics or just being exposed to it makes individuals much more likely to vote. Government can increase the likelihood of voting by conducting DMV registration and targeted registration drives. In fact, in California folks can pre-register to vote once they turn 16 and get a form of identification. Once they turn 18, they automatically get registered to vote. This helps to increase turnout and awareness among young people in particular. We also know that getting folks naturalized to become US citizens is an effective way of increasing turnout among Latinos. Folks who are naturalized are 8-10% more likely to vote than their native-born counterparts
voting leads to more representation! As Latinos vote at higher rates, they are likely to gain representation at the local, state, and federal levels.
. At the same time, Latinos now occupy ~762 elected offices in the state, 20% of the Assembly and Senate positions, and ~6 seats in the state's congressional delegation. That more Latinos are in elected office in California demonstrates the power of the Latinx vote: as more vote, more representation follows. Importantly, Latinos comprise ~8% of the national electorate, which is a 60% increase since 1996. Latinos also occupy ~6,100 positions in elected office nationwide, with the majority coming from California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas. As more Latinos get politically active, more representation is the result.
And while this happens, representation at the federal level is still abysmal. As the figure below shows, as of 2016, there were only 33 Latinos in the House of Representatives, and 4 in the Senate. Since 2016, the numbers have slightly improved for Latinos, but the rate at which Latinos are elected into federal elected office is still lagging behind. One explanation for the lack of federal representation is that while Latinos vote at a high rate in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, they do not vote at a high clip in other states -- that, or they simply do not have a large population in other states.
Another set of explanations is that there is simply a lack of motivation among Latinos.
As Garcia and Sanchez note, in 2012 there were 19.1 million people who reported that they were registered to vote but did not participate. 1 in 5 said that they could not take time off from work or school or were too busy, or they simply did not care about elections or politics. 15% said they were not interested in the election because of cynicism, apathy, or inefficacy. 11.5% reported that they were ill or disabled and couldn't make it to the polls, while 9.4% reported they had no preference between the two major presidential candidates. 7.4% said they were out of town during the election, and another 9.1% reported that they forgot about the election or had no way of getting to the polls. Today, with more voting taking place by mail, we might assume that there are fewer reasons why Latinos do not participate, but the truth is that there is still widespread apathy and cynicism about politics.
So how to increase turnout in even those states that have a relatively small Latinx population? In short, it's through education. Education can help discourage cynicism and apathy, as folks learn to recognize disparities and forms of inequality, making them more likely to vote in elections. We also know that in states that have a proposition and initiative system (such as California), Latinos are much more likely to vote, as they likely feel that are are direct legislators (and they are!). One other thing that inspires Latinos to vote is when there's congressional activity that hinders the experience of immigrants. Latinos generally do not like restrictive immigration policies, and tend to rise up to combat such policies when they are on the congressional docket.
The result was a (at least temporary) halting of such restrictive measures, as Latinos exercised their voice and made it clear that there would be political backlash in the next election.
seems clear that Latinos have the numbers to change the outcome of a given election, but it depends on a number of different factors as to whether Latinos will actually participate. The trends seem to indicate that as the Latinx population increases, more and more are becoming politically active, if only as a product of their numbers becoming larger and larger. The research also indicates that as Latinos become more educated, they tend to become more engaged in politics. And as Congress attempts to hinder the experience of immigrants in the US, Latinos tend to rise up. Thus, it seems clear to me, at least, that Latinos can swing an election, but they'll need time to grow their numbers and activate a larger portion of the community to get politically involved.
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