The Latino Vote: Good News & Work To Do

yo vote

By Victor Landa, NewsTaco

At first glance, yeah, Latino voters are “punching below their weight,” as a Pew press release succinctly put it. The Latino voter turn-out rate in the past presidential election was a paltry 48% – to quote Pew again – ,”far below that of whites (64.1%) or blacks (66.2%).”

And if that were the simple malady then the logical prescription would be more gym time and a change of diet to add some bulk. But there’s more to it than that.

Lets switch metaphors, abruptly, and reach for the proverbial glass to see if it’s half-empty or half-full.

First, turn away from percentages and look at real numbers. A record 11.2 million Latinos voted in 2012, an increase of 1.2 million over the 2008 presidential election.

Now, get a little closer to the glass and look at this: every month, according to Voto Latino, 50 thousand Latinos turn 18 years of age. Do the math, that’s 2.4 million new eligible Latino voters between 2008 and 2012. Hold that thought, and consider this:

  • According to Census Bureau data the number of eligible Latinos who chose not to vote in 2012 was 2.3 million.
  • 24% of the U.S. population under 18 years of age is Latino.
  • According to the Census Bureau report, the turnout rate among 18- to 24-year-olds fell to 41.2% in 2012 from 48.5% in 2008.

Now step back and look at the glass again.

The problem isn’t that it’s half-anything. The problem is that the glass is the wrong size. The Latinos that didn’t bother to vote are young, so they belong in two bins and their voter behavior responds more to their youth than to their ethnicity. With time, as the 50 thousand a month accumulate birthdays, and jobs and families they’ll see the value in casting a vote and the 1.2 million voter participation increase that we saw between 2008 and 2012 will increase even more and astonish people.

It’s going to take a while – time at the gym, carbo-loading. And when it happens the headlines will yell about the incredible jump in voters. But between you and me, we know they’ve been here all along. And we know it’ll take work to get them all registered and plugged-in.

The first wave should be primed and ready by 2016…

[Photo by whatatravisty]

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