Latino electorate growing in key 2020 states: Analysis

Latino electorate growing in key 2020 states: Analysis
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Latino voters are set to play a key role in the 2020 election and beyond, according to new analysis that shows a major spike in Hispanic voter registrations.

A new analysis of demographic trends by progressive voter participation group Voto Latino found 295.1 percent growth in new registrations from Hispanic voters between 2014 and 2018.

And 90 percent of those registrations were concentrated in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin, many of which will be critical swing states in the 2020 presidential election.

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The Latino electorate has long suffered from low participation rates, particularly in midterms, mostly driven by low registration numbers.

Participation rates in the 2018 midterms seemed to mark a sea change for the electorate, as 27 percent of Hispanic voters said it was their first time voting in midterms, according to the Pew Research Center.

Maria Teresa Kumar, president and CEO of Voto Latino, told The Hill her organization has been actively organizing in all those states, save for Wisconsin and Georgia, since at least 2010.

"It demonstrates what happens when you do keep working in a community, that you don't leave them," she said.

In all, Voto Latino completed 202,399 registrations in 2018, an uptick of 14.2 percent from 2016, a presidential election year.

Young voters under 33 years of age accounted for 55.5 percent of the registrations and Hispanics accounted for 51.5 percent; 73 percent of all registrations were of people of color.

According to the organization's numbers, 76 percent of those registered voters successfully voted in 2018, compared to a 40.4 percent voting rate among all Hispanic citizens nationwide.

In the 11 priority states, voting numbers were slightly higher, at 77 percent.

And a survey of 2018 Hispanic voters by Voto Latino and Change Research showed that 94 percent of those voters plan to keep voting in future elections.

Still, Hispanic participation overall lagged behind white voters at 57.5 percent and black voters at 51.4 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Kumar said that lag presents an opportunity as Latino communities get politicized and parties look beyond their bases to find new voters.

"In this political climate, the Democrats — I don't think we're going to have to worry about a base turnout. Everybody feels like their half is on fire. That means we have to go to, where's the market opportunity? Just coldly calculated, where's the biggest bang for our buck, where's the opportunity, where's the growth?" she said.

Kumar pointed to Texas as an example of the potential for voter expansion, not only of previously unregistered voters, but of voters who switched parties over the last election cycles.

"We know that there's roughly 3 million young people in Texas, disproportionately young Latinos that are unregistered," she said.

"Some people say that, you know, Texas is not — is not coming. And I keep saying, well, I think that Texas is where California was. They have a mini-Trump in Gov. [Greg] Abbott and the Latino community is stressed, security wise, because of that governor," she added.

While Latino participation is growing, there are still large swaths of eligible voters that have never been contacted directly by campaigns, according to Kumar.

"Candidates should be paying attention, they can't just rely on the same voters, they have to expand it because there's an appetite for outreach by the Latino community," said Kumar.