Every month for the next two decades, 50,000 Latinos will turn 18 years old. With that many new eligible voters and dramatic population growth expected, Latinos could dominate voting in the Southwest, particularly Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center. Every year, 600,000 more Latinos become eligible voters, making them a potentially potent voting force. However, Latinos have a historically low turnout at the polls: Only around 30 percent of eligible Latinos vote, according to the non-profit Washington, D.C.-based Pew Hispanic Center. Advocacy groups see the national push toward more stringent voter identification laws as a way to suppress an already apathetic Latino vote. Of the nation’s 21.3 million eligible Latino voters, only 6.6 million voted in the 2010 elections, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. White and black voters had higher turnout — 48.6 percent and 44 percent, respectively.
“We haven’t been able to engage the community to really participate in the democratic process,” said Carlos Duarte of the Phoenix-based non-partisan voter education organization, Mi Familia Vota Education Fund. “To be focusing our energy on trying to generate another obstacle for the people to participate, I think is completely misguided.” Duarte, Texas director of Mi Familia Vota, which also has branches in Arizona, Colorado and Nevada, said legislators should instead encourage Latinos to vote. Despite the low turnout of recent elections, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials predicts record voting by Latinos in November – more than 12.2 million voters. That would be a 26 percent increase in turnout from the 2008 election.