October 16, 2014
By Laura Meckler
More Hispanic Americans are eligible to vote this election than ever before, but few of them live in states with competitive races, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center that details a central problem for advocates who hope to leverage the power of the fast-growing Hispanic community.
Nearly half of all Hispanic Americans live in California or Texas, states that have not staged competitive statewide races in recent years. Texas is dominated by Republicans; California, by Democrats.
Another challenge: turnout rates among Hispanics are historically much lower than non-Hispanic white and black voters. That’s partly because Latinos are, as a group, younger than other voters, and young people are less likely to vote than older people are.
This fall, a record 25.2 million Latinos will be eligible to vote, 11% of all eligible voters nationwide, Pew said. (The report defines an eligible voter as a U.S. citizen over 18 years old.) But they represent only 4.7% of eligible voters in eight states selected by Pew with close Senate races. Colorado, where Hispanics represent 14.2% of eligible voters, is the only state where Hispanics represent a greater than average share of the electorate. (Besides Colorado, the other seven Senate states tracked by the study are Kansas, Alaska, North Carolina, Arkansas, Louisiana, Iowa and Kentucky.)
In states with competitive gubernatorial contests, Hispanics only make an above-average share of the electorate in Florida (17.1% of eligible voters) and Colorado (14.2%).
Hispanics do make up a large share of the electorate in a handful of House races—particularly a Miami-area seat, where 62% of eligible voters are Hispanic, and a race on California’s Gold Coast, where 31% of eligible voters are.
The power of the Hispanic vote is also limited by low voter participation rates. In 2010, the last midterm election, just 31.2% of eligible Hispanics voted, Pew reports, compared with 48.6% of whites and 44% of blacks.
Over the course of the congressional debate over immigration, many advocates for a liberalized system have invoked the electoral power of the growing Hispanic community. But they also have acknowledged that Hispanics have much more power in presidential years, when more states with large Latino populations are traditionally important to the outcome.
Source: Wall Street Journal