The Latino Vote Could Become A Defensive One

The Latino voting power has grown, but not as much as its potential suggests. This year could be different if the campaign continues to focus on polarizing issues and if the attacks against immigrants continue

Much of the potential Latino vote is still considered “The Sleeping Giant”, but in 2016, if the topic of the campaign continues to focus on polarizing issues such as immigration, access to health, potential armed conflicts, and national security, this could change.

This will depend a lot on the candidates for next November and the topics that catch voters’ attention and take control of the campaigns, but experts are already seeing clear signs that the Latino community, particularly the immigrant one, is putting a lot attention to what some presidential candidates are saying, especially those whose campaign platform focuses on hinder or prevent the legalization of immigrants or directly attack the Mexicans or Latinos in general, among other controversial positions.

“When a group of voters feels attacked, this group cast their vote. It is not about feeling enthusiastic for one candidate or idea, you can also be just a defensive vote,” said Adrian Pantoja, a political scientist at Pitzer College.

“This is noted in the conversation within the community, not just what is seen in Hispanic media but social media exchanges as well. After Donald Trump announced his candidacy and launched the first attack against Mexico and immigrants, the issue has continued to circulate on social media.”

Political scientists suspect that the “Trump effect” also spread to other potential candidates on the Republican side, to counteract a contraction of Latino voter registration that affected negatively this community’s casting vote in 2014, during the midterm elections.

According to the Willie Velasquez Institute, among the last presidential election (2012) and 2014, Latino voter registration shrank in 12 states, in a overall of almost 1 million voters, due to the changes generated by the recession and the little attention that is normally given to the mobilization of the vote during non-presidential years.

But even in those years, the Hispanic vote grew by 33% in Arizona and 54% in Oregon, mainly due to local issues (anti-immigrant law, measures legalizing marijuana). Other states where the Latino vote grew: Colorado (13%) and Pennsylvania (16%), for being competitive states that had an extensive political investment.

Potential yet to achieve

However, the impact could be even greater due to the diverse public campaigns in progress (starting with the White House campaigns and adding numerous non-profit and media groups) to promote citizenship and the vote in 2016.
The potential exists. At least half of potentially eligible Latinos to vote in the United States are not registered. Those millions, who could become citizens and register to vote, have not done it yet.

In a political context, where Latinos and immigrants are the focus of many attacks by politicians in the presidential campaign, many institutions, organizations, and administrations have enabled campaigns in recent months, to ensure the registration of eligible Latino voters but who have not registered on the electoral roll.

There are a surprising number of Latino citizens eligible to vote who are not registered. Many others could have become citizens, and can still do it before the 2016 elections, in order to have a voice.

According to projections from the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), the number of Latinos eligible to vote in 2016 is 28.2 million nationwide. Half of that amount of people is not registered on their state’s electoral roll, so they would not be able to vote at the election time.

If 14 million Hispanic citizens who are not registered do so, and 8.8 million eligible to become citizens do so, the growth of the Latino vote would be extraordinary.

For more information on registering voters, visit this website or check our Citizenship Guide.

Important dates

February 1: Presidential primaries begin in some states of the country and last until June 7 this year for Republicans and June 14 for Democrats.

The presidential elections of the United States are INDIRECT. Voters vote by state and elect delegates to the national conventions to be held during the summer this year.

Generally, only registered voters in a party vote in its presidential primaries, but in California, voters who do not identified with a particular party but are registered to vote may participate in the Democratic primary but not in the Republican one (this is an individual decision from the parties, as permitted by California law).

Among the most important primary we have:

Iowa: February 1; New Hampshire: February 9; South Carolina, February 20; Super Tuesday or SEC Primaries; March 1 (15 states held primaries this day including Colorado and Texas). March 13: Puerto Rico;March 15: six states including Florida and Ohio. March 22, Arizona, and three other states. April 19: New York. June 7: 9 states, including California and New Mexico.

National party conventions (Elected delegates during the primaries gather here to select their candidate, usually already but not necessarily decided by vote).

Republican National Convention: July 18 to 21 in Cleveland, Ohio.

Democratic National Convention: July 25 to 28 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Voter Registration

Each state has a deadline for voter registration:

California: primary on June 7, new voter register by May 23.

New York: primary on April 19, registration before March 25.

Florida: primary on March 15, registration before 16 February.

Texas: primary on March 1, register by February 1.

Illinois: primary March 15, register before March 8.

General Election: Tuesday, November 8

Latino Vote figures

US Population: 58.1 million (more than 5 million in 2012)

Vote 2012: 11.2 million Latinos voted. Projection 2016: 13.1 million.

Legal residents eligible for citizenship: 9 million.

Latino citizens not registered: 14 million.