Young Latino vote crucial to Obama’s re-election

Leo Galindo, 20, from Massachusetts, is among the group of young Latinos who voted to re-elect President Obama.

“I made a vow, that (this) presidential election, I would vote and elect the person I believed had the country’s and its people’s interest at heart,” explains Galindo, who voted for the first time this week. “I voted because I believe that as a child of immigrants, I should have the same right as someone who wasn’t born here.”

According to the Pew Hispanic Center exit poll, the Latino youth, ages 18 to 29, voted in support of Obama over Romney  — 74 percent versus 23 percent in comparison to the overall youth support of 60 percent versus 37 percent. As the latest census and demographic trends show more young Latinos are reaching the voting age and moving to cities across the United States, making their vote even more critical in swing states.

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“We are not just talking about Hispanics in California,” says Maria Teresa Kumar, co-founder of Voto Latino. “What made a difference were the young voters and first generation immigrants participating and voting in states that you wouldn’t expect like Ohio and Virginia.”

Nationwide, Pew Hispanic Center exit polls show Obama’s support among Latinos grew to 71 percent, the most support the Democratic Party has seen since 1996 with Bill Clinton. Latino voters make up 10 percent of the overall electorate, compared to 8 percent in 2004.

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This number is expected to grow in the next three decades as over half a million young Hispanics reach voting age each year. In order to get this new generation of Latino voters, Kumar explains that groups like Voto Latino will have to “modernize” the way they register voters.

“Motivating the youth has a lot to do with our interest in politics and where their passion lies,” says Kumar. “We had to infiltrate their Twitters, their Facebooks, and the other social media sites. And we have to continue this effort for the next election.”

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