Politics

More Latino, Asian-American voters projected in coming California elections

FILE: A jogger passes a directional sign to a polling place during a 2012 election in the Los Angeles area community of Hermosa Beach, California. New research from UC Davis shows that voting demographics are shifting in California.
FILE: A jogger passes a directional sign to a polling place during a 2012 election in the Los Angeles area community of Hermosa Beach, California. New research from UC Davis shows that voting demographics are shifting in California.
David McNew/Getty Images

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With the 2016 campaign ramping up, new research out Tuesday from the University of California, Davis, projects eligible Latino voters will surge in the Los Angeles area with a similar trend for Asian-Americans voters.

Eligible Latino voters are expected to increase by 77 percent or 5.3 million people by 2040 while eligible Asian-American voters are projected to grow by 37 percent or 1.1 million over the same period.  

"The question is what kind of impact could they have," said Mindy Romero, director of the California Civic Engagement Project at the UC Davis Center for Regional Change.  

"We're finding that even with the low turnout rates, the population rate growth is going to be such that you still are going to see a growth in the Latino and Asian American proportion of the vote," she said. 

The new numbers were presented during a legislative briefing on the California vote in Sacramento. The Asian and Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus and the Latino Legislative Caucus co-sponsored the event at the state Capitol. 

Historically, many campaigns haven’t invested heavily in targeting Latino and Asian-American voters. But, according to Romero, research shows those dollars are well spent; when campaign literature lands in mailboxes of eligible voters, they often show up at the polls. 

"Politicians cannot ignore those two populations. They’re going to be ignoring an ever-growing, very large part of the electorate," she said. 

Romero said political outreach may be especially effective in connecting with California's Asian-Americans. They have an especially large group of voters who aren’t tightly affiliated with Democrats or Republicans.

Latino and Asian-American populations could change "the outcome of a number of the state's election contests in 2016," according to a policy brief from the California Civic Engagement Project in July. The percentage of Latino voters is expected to rise to 21.2 percent of the state's voters by the 2016 presidential election. That's an increase from the 19.3 percent in 2012. 

Romero said California is in the midst of a major demographic shift. Population growth for Latinos and Asian-Americans is exploding in some areas of the state.

"Variation really is the story," she said. "California is growing a lot, but not all areas are growing to the same degree."

For example, an anticipated surge in the Bay Area's Asian-American population is expected to fuel changes that will impact voter demographics and potentially sway elections. By 2040, more than 25 percent of voters in San Mateo, Alameda, San Francisco and Santa Clara counties could be Asian.

During the 2012 presidential election, all four of those counties recorded Asian-American voter rates below 20 percent. In San Mateo County, Asian-American voters made up just 12.2 percent of voters that year.

By 2040, projections show 40.5 percent of all voters in Los Angeles County will be Latino even if their low turnout rates don't change. That will up from 29.1 in the 2012 presidential election. In San Bernardino County, Latinos will make up 35 percent of all voters and, in Orange County, they will be 23.6 percent of all voters.