The US Census estimates that within 40 years, Latinos will number more than 102 million - almost a quarter of the nation's total population.
Despite that, Latinos – alongside Asian Americans and naturalized US citizens – tend to be underrepresented at the polls come Election Day.
In one recent public service announcement by a Southwestern youth group, the message in Spanish says: “Times are changing, and 2012 is our election... “
Still, some critics say candidates haven’t done enough to reach new voters, especially those who speak languages other than English. But compared with the rest of the country, California has done a better job registering and engaging many of these voters.
“California is ahead of the game in terms of candidates understanding that they need to have Latino strategies in order to reach voters and to get to that 50% plus mark,” said Arturo Vargas, executive director of NALEO, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.
“I’m living in an assembly district with a very competitive race between two Latinos running for the state assembly," Vargas said. "And I’m getting mailers from them in both English and Spanish, and many of them are overtly sending campaign messages with a Latino message.”
By a “Latino message” Vargas is talking about campaigns focused on the economy, public safety, and education – three top issues that Latinos, Asian Americans and naturalized first-time voters care about.