Politics, government and public life for Southern California

A record number of Latinos are eligible to vote, but will they?

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There are a record number of Latinos eligible to vote in this year's election, according to a new report. But how many will actually make it to the polls remains the bigger question.

There are now close to 24 million Latinos in the United States who are eligible to vote, according to the report from the Pew Hispanic Center, upwards of four million more than there were in 2008. Pew researchers came up with the number after crunching census data.

But Latino turnout has traditionally been unimpressive, and there's a chance these potential voters could continue to fall behind in voter participation. Even in 2008, some 50 percent of eligible Latino voters cast ballots, compared with two-thirds of black voters and white voters.

In addition, eligibility to vote doesn't equal registration. In spite of a growing Latino U.S. population — with the bulk of the growth now coming from native-born Latinos, not immigrants — the number of Latinos who said they are registered to vote went down between 2008 and 2010, according to Pew.

But Latinos do represent a growing share of voters nonetheless: 9.7 million Latinos cast votes in 2008, compared with 7.6 million in 2004. From the report

...2008 was an historic election year with a record voter turnout. The Democratic primary contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton generated high level of interest among Latino voters, including the many who live in California and Texas, states that, because of their position on the primary calendar, often don’t have much of a say in the outcome of the race.

Could this year's election generate similar interest, with the economy a top-of-mind issue and Latinos having shown to be the hardest hit by the downturn? The complete report can be downloaded here.

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