NY voter registration could cost Sanders young Latinos

NY voter registration could cost Sanders young Latinos
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Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders opposes Biden Interior nominee in procedural vote Briahna Joy Gray on how Sanders changed the healthcare conversation Sanders 'delighted' DeSantis asked White House to import Canadian prescription drugs MORE may have lost a race against time to court Latino voters in New York.

Nearly 2 million Latinos are eligible to vote in Tuesday’s crucial primary in the Empire State, which polls show is front-runner Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton backs Shontel Brown in Ohio congressional race Hillary Clinton: Casting doubt on 2020 election is 'doing Putin's work' Progressives rave over Harrison's start at DNC MORE’s to take.

But the distance between the former two-term senator from New York and her opponent will be revealing, say Latino political strategists.

“Will Latino millennials turn out? That is the question here”, said Angelo Falcón of the non-partisan National Institute for Latino Policy in New York City. 


The Sanders campaign has attracted record-breaking crowds in the state and his support among young voters has gained attention, but the primary system makes it hard for voters new to the process, as is the case with a large portion of Sanders supporters.

“New York has a very restrictive primary. You would have had to register months in advance in order to vote in the primary on Tuesday,” Falcón said. “It creates obstacles for supporters of Sanders, because many of them are just now paying attention.” 

A survey released several days before the Empire State contest showed Latino support nationwide nearly evenly split between Clinton and Sanders — 48 to 47 percent respectively, according to the PRRI/Atlantic poll. A poll of Democratic voters in New York by the television station NY1 shows Sanders ahead of Clinton among Latinos. But Clinton has an advantage on Tuesday because of the primary structure and prominent political figures in the state. 

Clinton has the support of the state’s Hispanic political establishment, including New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the two Latino members of Congress from New York, José Serrano and Nydia Velázquez. 

One of the state’s largest unions, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1199, has a large Latino membership — the union claims 25 percent are Latino immigrants — and has endorsed Clinton in Tuesday’s primary.  

About half of the state’s Latino residents are eligible to vote; 51 percent of Latino voters in the state are Puerto Rican, 25 percent Dominican and the rest split among other Hispanic groups. The voting bloc is overwhelmingly Democratic — 70 percent of New York Latinos say they are Democrats.

“The Republicans are not even contenders among Latino voters on Tuesday,” Falcón said. 

Clinton recently announced that as president, she would create a national White House Office of Immigration Affairs to coordinate efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform and provide more funding for naturalization efforts, among other proposals, expanding on the work of an immigration policy task force created by President Obama in 2014. 

“This office would build on the work of the Obama administration’s task force and create a dedicated place in the White House to coordinate immigration policies across the federal government,” Clinton said last week at a rally in New York City. 

While non-naturalized immigrants can’t vote, immigration is one of the key deciding factors for Latino voters. Most surveys find Latino voters support immigration reform, and a poll by Pew Hispanic found that more than a third of registered Hispanics would absolutely not vote for a candidate who disagrees with them on immigration, including a quarter of Latino Republicans and nearly half of Latino Democrats.

New York media analyst and communications consultant César Vargas is a Sanders supporter and agrees that the state’s closed primary will freeze out last-minute supporters, but he says that Clinton has simply done a much better job at Latino voter outreach.

“Most of the folks who have contacted me from Bernie's camp have been eager volunteers and not the campaign itself. That's unfortunate considering how much effort I've put into endorsing him and his ideas," Vargas said. "On Hillary's side, people say the campaign has reached out to them directly, and that's why they're endorsing her and not Bernie — because Bernie didn't reach out.

"So, yes, maybe Bernie's people needed to get with the program and at least try to reach directly those people who are on his team and want to reach a larger audience. It boggles my mind they're not doing such a good job on that front. I just don’t see their minority [community] outreach.”

It’s too little, too late, Vargas said.

Sanders won’t be in New York on Tuesday, traveling instead to Pennsylvania to participate in two rallies a week ahead of that state's primary.

Patricia Guadalupe is a contributing writer for LATINO Magazine.