The coming years are an exciting time for the Latino electorate. With political participation reaching historic heights and the electorate expanding at a rapid rate, Latino voters are becoming an increasingly important fixture in national politics.
By the 2016 presidential election, the eligible Latino electorate will reach 27.3 million.
As each of the past four presidential elections has demonstrated, the road to the White House runs through the Latino community. Amassing the required Electoral College votes will require victory in key states like Colorado, Florida, New Mexico and Nevada, places where Latino voters play a critical role on Election Day. This was true in President George W. Bush's successful elections in 2000 and 2004, just as it was for President Barack Obama's campaigns in 2008 and 2012.
The Latino vote is up for grabs and the number of Latino voters casting ballots in presidential elections continues to grow. Between 2004 and 2012, the Latino electorate expanded from 7,587,000 to 11,118,800, an increase of 47 percent. The Latino share of all voters also increased, rising from 6 percent to 8.4 percent during that time.
The importance of the growth of the Latino youth population is critical to understanding the true potential of the Latino electorate. Nearly one of every four of our nation’s youth (under 18) is Latino (24 percent), and 97 percent of these youth are native-born – our nation’s future electorate. Each month, about 67,000 Latinos turn 18 – or about 800,000 per year.
Latinos Vote for Family, Friends and Community
For many Latino voters, the act of voting is not done to support a particular candidate or party. A plurality (37 percent) of Latino voters polled prior to Election 2014 reported casting ballots to support the community rather than a candidate, with nearly one of every four (23 percent) not identifying as Republican or Democrat.
This is consistent with the research we have conducted at the NALEO Educational Fund over the past four years, among "The Great Unengaged" -- Latino U.S. citizen adults who are unlikely to vote because they believe the political system does not work for them and their families, and that political promises are made and easily broken.
Numbers Alone Don’t Equate to Political Power or Support
Our community still needs to continue its political progress to ensure that the growth in participation reflects the growth in population.
More than half of Latino voters in Election 2014 reported they had not been contacted by a candidate, party or community organization to ask them for their vote. Political candidates and parties can and must do a better job of reaching out and engaging Latino voters on the issues that matter most if they want their support in 2016 and beyond.
NALEO Educational Fund will continue to operate its toll-free national hotline 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA (1-888-839-8682) and www.veyvota.org website to prepare the Latino electorate for Election 2016. The hotline and website serve as a non-partisan bilingual resources for voters with questions about any aspect of the electoral process. The hotline has assisted more than 100,000 voters to date.