Every month for the next two decades, 50,000 Latinos in the U.S. 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 Pew Hispanic Center in Washington, D.C. Advocacy groups see the national push toward more stringent voter identification laws as a way to suppress an already apathetic Latino vote.
Is voting fraud a serious problem in American elections? Will new identification requirements at the polls disenfranchise prospective voters among minorities, college students or the elderly? Should ex-felons who’ve served their sentences be allowed to vote? Are voting machines reliable? To report this series of articles, two dozen top student journalists from 11 universities are investigating the impact on American voters of recent changes in election laws and voting procedures in many of the 50 states.
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 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.”