A nonpartisan civic group pulled out all the stops this year to ensure that Latino millennials are registered to vote, with celebrity appearances, a “Turn Up for Super Tuesday” music event in San Antonio, and a special voting app launched just for the occasion.
It seems to have worked. Voto Latino, launched in 2004 by its chair Rosario Dawson at MTV Studios, registered more than 100,000 new voters since last November and expects a “record turnout” of Latino voters in a historic presidential election that’s fraught with issues of ethnicity and immigration.
Maria Teresa Kumar, president and CEO of the group, told VICE News in an email that the ramped-up efforts to get Latinos registered were partly driven by the attention on their community by “the candidates.” “This year in particular, the stakes are extremely high,” she said.
“Now it becomes about defining who is American,” Kumar wrote. “We need to make sure we represent, so we can change the conversation to make it about what counts: the issues.”
Kumar is confident that higher numbers of Latinos registering to vote will translate to more Latinos showing up to vote. “We fully expect there to be a record turnout of Latino voters in 2016,” Kumar wrote. “We’ve seen this election that Latinos are engaged.”
Voto Latino’s new app, VoterPal, allows users to register their friends and communities to vote. Pew Research has found that more Latinos have internet access than seven years ago. In 2009, 64 percent of Latinos were online, compared to 80 percent of whites. Now, the digital gap is smaller: This year, 84 percent of Latinos have internet access, compared to 89 percent of whites. Pew also found that about 94 percent of millennial and Gen Z Latinos have smartphones.
In 2012, record numbers of Latinos showed up to the polls — 11.2 million — but overall, the percentage of Latinos voting still lagged behind that of other ethnic groups. Despite the record turnout, Pew Research found that the percentage of Latinos who voted in 2012 actually declined from 2008, from 49.9 percent to 48 percent.
That’s partly because the population of Latinos eligible to vote grew by 19 percent over the four years of President Barack Obama’s first term, from 19.5 million to 23.3 million.
A poll released Sunday by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund in conjunction with Noticias Telemundo showed that 71 percent of respondents planned to vote in the election in November. 28 percent of would-be voters surveyed said that passing comprehensive immigration reform was the most important issue at stake. 22 percent said that fighting terrorism and the Islamic State group was the most important.
If the election were held at the time the survey was taken, 16 percent of respondents said they would vote for Trump; 73 percent said they’d back Democrat Hillary Clinton; 7 percent were undecided; and 3 percent said they planned to back a third-party candidate.
The states with the largest Latino populations are non-battleground states, such as New York, Texas, and California, which 538 says could limit their influence on whether their state goes blue or red. In swing states, such as Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina, and Virginia, about two-thirds of Latino voters prefer Clinton — which could shore up her numbers in those areas.
Trump does better in Florida and Ohio. This isn’t a surprise for Florida, where older Cuban-Americans have historically voted Republican. Pundits have suggested that Ohio poll numbers showing Trump surpassing his national average in currying favor with Latino voters in the state (he’s now at 22 percent) could be within the margin of error.