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LA’s Latino Vote - a Big Player Up for Grabs in 2016

LATINO PERSPECTIVE--According to a new report by Pew Research Center, the Latino electorate is bigger and better educated than ever before. Many of these voters are here in the Los Angeles. 

But this electorate is also young -- which could be a problem if they don’t come out and exercise their right to vote. Adults age 18-35 make up nearly half of the record 27.3 million Latinos eligible to vote in this year's presidential election, the report found. 

Another problem is that this voting block is heavily concentrated in California, Texas and New York. Unfortunately, these states are not the prime election battlegrounds unlike Florida, Nevada and Colorado. Latinos make up fewer than 5% of eligible voters in almost every state with close elections. 

This report sheds new light on an increasingly important voting bloc that both Republicans and Democrats hope to capture as the overall pool of eligible voters becomes less white. 

It’s important to note that the explosive growth of the Latino electorate is largely driven by young people born in the U.S. Between 2012 and November 2016, about 3.2 million Latino U.S.citizen will have turned 18 and become eligible to vote, according to the report’s projections. 

Millennials -- adults born in 1981 or later -- will account for 44% of the Latino electorate by this November, according to the report. By comparison, millennials will make up only 27% of the white electorate. 

The number of potential Latino voters is also being driven by immigrants in the U.S. legally who decide to become U.S. citizens, myself included. Between 2012 and 2016, some 1.2 million will have done so. 

Although most new voters are not immigrants, a majority of Latino voters have a direct connection to the immigrant experience, the report noted. That's an important fact in an election cycle that has been dominated by debates over what do with the estimated 11 million immigrants who entered the U.S. without authorization. 

By November, 56% of the Latino electorate will include immigrants or the U.S.-born children of immigrants who are here with or without authorization – up 51% from the year in 2000. 

As native-born young people begin to make up a greater share of the Latino population, those eligible to vote in November will have higher levels of education than in any recent presidential election year. Compared to 2000, eligible Latinos will be nearly twice as likely to have at least some college education. 

As years go by, both Republicans and Democrats need to take this voting block seriously. Democrats cannot take it for granted, and Republicans need to do a better job convincing Latinos that they genuinely care about their issues and are ready to find solutions to their problems. Both parties will no longer be able to give Latinos atole con el dedo -- to fool them in a condescending way.

 

(Fred Mariscal came to Los Angeles from Mexico City in 1992 to study at the University of Southern California and has been in LA ever since. He is a community leader who serves as Vice Chair of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition and sits on the board of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council representing Larchmont Village. He was a candidate for Los Angeles City Council in District 4. Fred writes Latino Perspective for CityWatch and can be reached at: [email protected]) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.