November 5, 2020 – For the first time in the U.S., Latin American and Caribbean voters are the largest minority. This is the first time that the number of Latinx potential voters will surpass African American voters. 32 million people of Latin American and Caribbean descent can have a significant impact on elections. According to the Pew Research Center, these groups represent 13.3% of potential voters. In the U.S., only persons over the age of 18 who are citizens by birth or naturalization can vote. In some states, voters convicted of a felony may be denied their right to vote. Almost a quarter of Latin American and Caribbean voters obtained their citizenship by naturalization, the last step in the migratory process.
It’s important to acknowledge the heterogeneous growth of the Latin American and Caribbean communities, that can be explained by their immigration status, years of residence and economic situation, factors impacting whether someone chooses to begin a naturalization process. The largest groups of Latin American and Caribbean voters are located in California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Arizona, in that order. In percentage, the relevance of these voters is higher in New Mexico, California, Texas, Arizona and Florida, in that order. Furthermore, Latin American and Caribbean voters have been the fastest growing ethnic/racial minority group in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida, Arizona, and North Carolina; states considered decisive in both presidential and Senate elections.
As with other nationality or ethnic/racial groups, these are not monolithic voting groups. The term “Latino vote” is a simplification of a diverse group, with different but similar electoral preferences. Recent polls suggest that 65% of Latin American and Caribbean voters lean Democratic. Therefore, 35% of potential voters support the reelection of Donald Trump. The difference in electoral preferences explains itself through their nationality or that of their parents, level of education, the economic class with which they identify, place of residence, migratory experience and gender, among others. For example, there is a presumption that President Trump counts with a greater male-base due to their identification with the President’s macho personality.
When pondering the impact of Latin American and Caribbean voters, it’s important to remember that, given the Electoral College for the presidential election, the impact depends on how tight the election is in each state. In the U.S., the President is not elected based on the popular vote; in fact, in the 2000 and 2016 Elections, the candidate with the most votes did not win the election. This is due to the assigned number of delegates by state that represent the Electoral College, summing 538 electors nationwide. The number of Senators and representatives in Congress determine the number of electors from each state. For example, California has 55 electors because of its two Senators, as every state, and 53 members in the House of Representatives. The states that follow in the number of electors or delegates to the Electoral College are Texas (38), New York (29), Florida (29), Illinois (20), and Pennsylvania (20). In the majority of states, the winning candidate receives all of the electors, even with a minimum margin of victory. The Electoral College must issue a certificate declaring the winner on the first Monday after the second Wednesday of December. This year is on Monday, December 14. All state controversies regarding vote count must be resolved before that date, so the candidate with at least 270 electors is the winner of the presidential elections. The Electoral College is an institution that was created due to the mistrust of the popular vote, pretending to filter people’s will to a group of educated men as representatives of the electorate. This system ends up increasing the importance of minorities in certain states, which explains the election of Donald Trump in 2016 and George Bush in 2000, even though they lost on popular vote.
The relevance of Latin-American and Caribbean voters is higher in states like Arizona and Florida, where its specific pondering is higher. For example, the so-called “Latino vote” makes up 20% of the total electorate in Florida, with the largest presence of Cuban and Venezuelan voters. In Arizona, there is an estimated 25% Latino electorate of Mexican origin. These states are strongly disputed between Republicans and Democrats, honing their campaigns to this specific group of voters.
There is an effort to get to the Latino vote in other states, like New Hampshire, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Iowa, and Ohio. Some analysts add Nebraska, Maine, North Carolina, Georgia, and Texas to the list. In the 2016 Election, Hillary Clinton lost due to a small margin of votes in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin (44,292, 10,704 and 22,748 respectively). In the 2020 Election, Latin American and Caribbean people eligible to vote in these states are 521,000, 261,000, and 183,000 respectively. Numbers suggest that effective efforts to mobilize Latino voters in these states could be decisive for the presidential election outcome.
In spite of financial limitations, Latin American and Caribbean organizations are making efforts to encourage electoral participation. The Covid-19 pandemic took traditional vote mobilization to social media platforms. Organizations like Federación Hispana, Mi Familia Vota, Proyecto para el Empadronamiento y la Educación del Suroeste and Alianza Americas, are sending strong messages to encourage participation of Latino voters. The Latino vote of 2008 (49.9%) is expected to be surpassed.
The Latin American and Caribbean voters will continue as the largest ethnic/racial minorities for many years to come. Transforming this situation into a power bargain that benefits these communities directly, and consequently our countries of origin, will depend on an integral organizational agenda that enables us to take part in political decisions that affects us and the training of eligible leaders designated to support an agenda of development and environmentally responsible well-being in local, state, and federal governments. It is not about pushing a “Latino” agenda, but rather an agenda for an American society that includes equality for all, without exceptions.