WASHINGTON, D.C. – Hispanics make up the largest emerging ethnic group in the United States and one that the outcome of this year’s elections may hinge on.
“Eight out of every 10 Latinos in our country are United States citizens. The other thing that is important to know is that, during presidential elections, eight out of 10 Latinos, who are registered to vote, vote.”
Clarissa Martinez is with UnidosUS, the largest Latino civil rights organization in the country. UnidosUS is now working on voter registration outreach, in the run up to the 2020 election.
“We have a lot eligible, but unregistered, voters,” Martinez said.
According to the Pew Research Center, a record 32 million Hispanics will be eligible to vote in the 2020 election, many of them in valuable swing states.
Hispanics make up about 20% of eligible voters in Arizona and Florida, nearly a third of the potential electorate in California and Texas, and more than 40% of eligible voters in New Mexico.
“Basically, in pure numbers, [it] means that, if they were a solid bloc, they would really make a significant difference,” said Dr. Eduardo Gamarra, a political science professor at Florida International University.
Yet, he adds – Hispanics are not a solid voting bloc.
For example – in past elections – Cuban Americans tended to vote Republican, while Mexican Americans favored Democrats, with Puerto Ricans sometimes split between the two parties.
“It is a very diverse community,” Dr. Gamarra said. “It's national origin, but it's also income. It's also race, to a certain extent, right? And Latino women, in some measure, in some places, vote different than Latino men.”
That means campaigns may need to tailor their messages, depending on which part of the Hispanic electorate they’re trying to reach.
It’s outreach that Clarissa Martinez argues is often missing when it comes to Hispanic voters.
“In the last two presidential elections, for example, 60% of Latino voters who were highly likely to vote said that they had not heard from campaigns or candidates – which, frankly, is political malpractice,” she said.
However, she says it can be rectified with a simple political playbook.
“Candidates matter, their positions matter,” she said, “and meaningful outreach is essential.”