Per the latest estimates, come November, Latinos will add up to 17.2 percent of the total U.S. population, with 15 percent of adults, 11.2 percent of adult citizens. Every single month, some 50,000 of our youth turn 18 years old, 87 percent of which are eligible to vote. So it comes as a surprise to read that even with those numbers, Latinos only represent 8.9 percent of actual voters.
By some estimates, only about half of the eligible Latinos are registered to vote. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, an estimated 31.8 million Latinos are of voting age (18 and older) in the United States, but only 10.9 million — 51.6 percent — are registered to vote, compared with 62.8 percent for eligible African-Americans and 68.2 percent for non-Hispanic whites.
These figures are deeply troubling. With barely 53 days to what is looking as an extremely tight Presidential election, every single possible vote becomes essential. At no other point in the history in this country has the importance of the Latino vote been greater. Besides the issues we share with the American population, our growing population has plenty at stake: immigration, the high unemployment rate, the high poverty and dropout rates, the U.S. government’s relationships with our Latin American countries… the list goes on and on.
Given the numbers above, it goes without saying that increasing voter registration is the key to unleash our power and turn our growing numbers into actual political clout. As the largest minority group, and with growing population numbers in key battleground states like Florida, Wisconsin, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia, even a small percentage increase in our voting turnout can be the deciding factor in the outcome of the 2012 elections.
As the cornerstone of democracy and the political expression of an individual’s will, voting gives an ordinary citizen the power to influence the future orientation of a country’s government. While the role of the Latino vote has been a matter of ample contention and analysis by both Latino-focused and mainstream media, it’s hard to gauge whether or not our community has truly internalized just how much power it possesses, and how much of a say it has when it comes to its own future in this country. The fact that the so-called “Sleeping giant” has got to wake up might sound like the biggest cliché this side of the border, but it needs to happen, and now. And the only way this will happen is if each and every one of us takes individual responsibility, stops talking, and starts acting.
Below is your 2012 Voter Action Plan, which will help you become better informed on the issues, exercise your right to vote, mobilize others, and stake your claim in the future of this country. Enough with the blah, blah, blah. We can do this, gente, let’s go!
1. Get informed:
- Mitt Romney – September 19, 2012, 10 pm ET
- Barack Obama – September 20, 2012, 10 pm ET
- 1st Presidential Debate – October 3, 2012, University of Denver, CO
- 2nd Presidential Debate – October 16, 2012, Hofstra University, NY
- 3rd Presidential Debate – October 22, 2012, Lynn University, FL
- 4th Presidential Debate – October 11, 2012, Centre College, KY
- Find out about the issues and which candidate matches your concerns more closely, (includes interactive ballot measures by issue and by state)
3. Connect With and Mobilize others:
State Restrictions on Voter Registration Drives
4. Share These Guides in Spanish:
Do you have any other voting resources to share? Please add them in the comments!
Elianne Ramos is Principal/CEO of Speak Hispanic Marketing and Vice-Chair, Marketing and PR for Latinos in Social Media (LATISM). Under LATISM, she is also Chief Editor of the LATISM blog, and hostess to weekly Twitter chats reaching over 18.8 million impressions. Follow her on Twitter @ergeekgoddess.