Even though the 2012 election is now in the history books, both political parties are working harder than ever to court the Latino vote. It makes sense. Latinos made up 10 percent of the electorate in 2012, up from 9 percent in 2008 and 8 percent in 2004. Population and voting experts tell us that upward trend of Latino voters will continue.
Immigration Reform, which seems to be attracting bi-partisan support in Congress, could further spike the number of new Latino born citizens and thus Latino voters in the U.S. In California, Latinos will be the single largest ethnic group in the state by the time the mid-year elections roll around in 2014.
Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who is now teaching at the University of California in Berkeley, wrote for Salon recently about the importance of the country working to enlarge citizenship and increase participation in the electoral process.
What’s interesting is while the Latino vote has been increasing dramatically, there is still a gap between who can vote and those who do. About 12 million Latinos voted in the 2012 election, but another 10 million eligible Latinos either didn’t vote or weren’t registered to vote.
At the recent Future of California Elections (FOCE) meeting in Sacramento, election officials from around the state were given some ideas about how to spur Latino registration and participation in voting.
Rosalind Gold is the Senior Director of Policy, Research and Advocacy for the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO). She spends a lot of time thinking about how to increase Latino voting turnout.
She has a prescription for improving registration and turnout. She thinks same day registration in California will be helpful but that state officials must also pay attention to how they communicate with potential Latino voters. Simplifying the voter guide is another idea.
There’s one more interesting side note regarding the Latino vote. The Pew Hispanic Center reported this month that two-thirds of the 5.4 million legal immigrants from Mexico who are eligible to become citizens have not yet taken that step. In fact, Pew tells us, the naturalization rate on legal Mexican immigrants in the U.S. is only 36 percent, only half that of legal immigrants from all countries combined.