Dec 14, 2019 - Politics & Policy

The first-time Latino voters

Illustrated collage of archival photography and data visualization elements.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Bettmann/Getty Contributor

The 2020 election marks the first time in history that Latinos will be the largest minority ethnic or racial group in the electorate, with 32 million eligible voters.

Why it matters: A surge in Latino voters could help Democrats up and down the ballot. But since 1996, most eligible Latino voters have not voted in presidential elections, according to the Pew Research Center.

  • "The perpetual problem for Democrats in regards to Hispanic voters remains: converting potential votes into actual votes," said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato's Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

By the numbers: There are an estimated 15–18 million Latino people in the U.S. who are not registered to vote. Roughly 4 million turned 18 after the 2016 election.

But Latino voter participation is growing — 27% who voted in the midterms said it was their first time.

  • Almost half of eligible Latino voters were never even contacted by a political party or candidate, yet 79% voted in 2018, said María Teresa Kumar, founding president and CEO of Voto Latino.
  • 69% cast a ballot for a Democrat.

What to watch: Texas — which Democrats are desperate to turn blue — accounts for 25% (2.5 million) of eligible but unregistered young Latino voters, per Kumar. It's one state where first-time Latino voters have the ability to sway 2020 election results.

  • The other side: "There is always the possibility that Republicans will continue to struggle with nonwhite voters, but can make up for that by pulling an even higher share of the white vote," Kondik said, particularly in competitive Midwestern states that are whiter than the national average.

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