Hispanic Voting Population Still Behind, But Catching Up

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Hispanic immigrants are a growing force in politics. (Photo: Mockstar/flickr)

Fi2W reported yesterday that the number of Hispanics in the U.S. has grown dramatically over the past decade, exceeding even Census Bureau projections.

But not all those Hispanics can vote. Mark Hugo Lopez, associate director of the Pew Hispanic Center, said some 20 million Latinos are eligible to vote, out of a total of about 50 million Latinos residing in the U.S.  Hispanics account for about 16 percent of the U.S. population, but in 2008 they accounted for only about nine percent of the vote. “The reason we see this gap is because many Latinos are too young to vote or are not U.S. citizens,” Lopez said.

But that will change in the next decade as U.S.-born Hispanic minors reach voting age, a trend that could potentially shift the nation’s political landscape. Hand-in-hand as the Hispanic population in the U.S. grows, the share of Hispanic voters grows too. Each presidential cycle over the last decade has seen the addition of about two million Hispanic voters, Lopez said.   They are one of the fastest growing groups of eligible voters.

Getting more Hispanic voters to the polls appears to be weighing heavily on the mind of the Latino Justice Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF) which announced a new president this week—attorney Juan Cartagena. Cartagena said one of his goals in his new position is to get more Hispanics elected to public office across the country.

“I have been doing voter rights since the first time many years ago when I walked in the door of this organization. And I have done it ever since. My most recent case was trying to restore the voting rights for people who are incarcerated,” Cartagena told NY1.

So far, the Census has counted about 39 million Hispanics in the first 33 states for which it has released data, and those Hispanics account for about 58 percent of the population growth in those states. That growth will likely contribute to changes in congressional districts across the country and additional representation in Congress for states with growing Hispanic populations.

AboutSarah Kate Kramer
Sarah Kate Kramer first got hooked on collecting stories as a StoryCorps facilitator, then traveled the world with a microphone for a few years before settling down in her hometown of New York City. From 2010-2012 she was the editor of Feet in 2 Worlds and a freelance reporter for WNYC Radio, where she created “Niche Market,” a weekly segment that profiled specialty stores in New York. Sarah is now a producer at Radio Diaries, a non-profit that produces documentaries for NPR and other public radio outlets.