The number of Latinos who are eligible to vote in this years midterm elections has reached a record 25.2 million, up 3.9 million from the 2010 midterm elections. And now, for the first time, Latinos make up 11 percent of eligible voters nationwide.
But even as they increase in numbers, Latinos make up a small share of eligible voters in states with close Senate and gubernatorial races, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center.
The report identifies eight states with close Senate races. In nearly all of those states, Latinos make up 6 percent or less of eligible voters. The one exception is Colorado, where Latinos make up 14 percent of eligible voters.
As a result, the impact of Latino voters in determining which party controls the U.S. Senate may not be as large as might be expected given their growing electoral and demographic presence nationwide, the report said.
When it comes to states with competitive House races, the Latino share of eligible voters varies. In six congressional districts, less than 5 percent of eligible voters are Latinos.
In other districts, Latinos make a sizeable share of eligible voters. For example, Latinos make up 62 percent of eligible voters in Floridas 26th congressional district. And in Californias 26th congressional district, Latinos make up 31 percent of eligible voters.
But overall, 96 percent of Latino voters and 97 percent of all voters live in districts without a close congressional race, according to the report.
In the case of the gubernatorial races, nine have close races. The report examined the role Latinos will play in these races.
Just as with competitive U.S. Senate races, Hispanics on average account for a smaller share of eligible voters in these races than they do nationally, the report said.
Among these states with competitive gubernatorial races, Latinos make up 10 percent or more of the eligible voters in three states: Florida with 17.1 percent, Colorado with 14.2 percent and Connecticut with 10.3 percent.
The Pew Research Center report also examined where Latinos stand on a number of state ballot initiatives.
One of the states highlighted in the report is Florida, which has the fifth-highest share of Latino eligible voters. The state is considering a ballot measure to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes. Nationally, Latino registered voters are split on the issuewith half saying marijuana should be made legal.
Latino registered voters are also split on abortion. An estimated 48 percent say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 44 percent say it should not. Measures to restrict access to abortion services and birth control are on the ballot in Colorado, North Dakota and Tennessee.
On raising the minimum wage, Latinos are generally supportive. An estimated 84 percent of Latinos are in favor of raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour. Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota are considering ballot measures to raise the minimum wage.
For this election, Latinos are expected to vote in record numbers. The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials predicts 7.8 million Latinos will vote this year, up 1.2 million from the 2010 midterm elections.
But as the Pew Research Center report pointed out, more Latinos could be turning out to vote but are choosing not tolike was the case in the last midterm elections.
During the 2010 midterm election, a record 6.6 million Hispanics voted, representing a turnout rate of 31.2%, the report said. But more than twice as many Hispanics14.7 millioncould have voted but did not.
The report also pointed out voter turnout rates are usually higher among blacks and whites than they are among Latinos.
One of the reasons why Latinos have a low voter turnout, the report said, is because the Latino population is still relatively young. Young people tent to turn out at lower rates than older voters.
Another reason is many Latinos live in states, like California and Texas, where there isnt much political competitiveness. As a result, Latino voters in those states dont get the same level of attention from campaigns that Latino voters in battleground states receive.