Reflecting the increase in the nation’s Latinos, more than a million additional Hispanic voters participated in the 2012 elections. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Census: More than a million more Latinos voted in 2012 than 2008

This may be surprising — not as many Latinos voted in 2008 as in 2012. A newly-released Census report on the 2012 election, The Diversifying Electorate — Voting Rates by Race and Hispanic Origin in 2012 (and Other Recent Elections), found that 1.4 million more Latinos voted in the 2012 elections than in 2008, and in total, about 11 million Hispanics cast their votes last November, making up just under 8.5 percent of the voters.

“There is no reversing this trend — Hispanics are a growing population, and this growth translates into more voters,” says political scientist Sylvia Manzano, a senior research analyst for Latino Decisions, commenting on the Census results.

There is still work to do, however, in terms of getting more eligible Latinos to the polls. In all, the report finds that 48 percent of eligible Latino voters participated in the 2012 election. This rate is slightly lower than in 2008, when 49.9 percent of eligible Hispanics voted. According to the report, while 10.8 of the eligible voting population is Latino, only 8.4 percent of eligible Latinos voted in 2012.

“I think this tells us not to be complacent — the big story is that the Latino vote is important and the ‘sleeping giant’ woke up, but what these numbers say is that the giant is still a little drowsy,” says political scientist Angelo Falcón, founder and director of the National Institute for Latino Policy (NILP). “We still have to pay attention to mobilizing voters, and there is still a lot of work to do,” Falcón adds.

Manzano thinks there are several reasons for the lower participation rates. One is that 2008 saw a very competitive Democratic primary between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, one in which both camps aggressively courted — and helped to register — Latinos. “Clinton and Obama spent time mobilizing in Texas and California, so we saw a slightly higher turnout in 2008,” says Manzano. “Once Latinos are registered, they tend to vote,” she adds.

Another reason for the slightly lower rate in Latino voters in 2012 involves the youth vote. Voters between the ages of 18 to 24 had a lower turnout rate than in 2008. Among Latinos, the youth vote went down 4.6 percent between 2008 and 2012.

Manzano says that looking ahead at 2016, voter registration is key. Some states like Colorado and Florida saw a successful increase in Latino voters in 2012, but this is not the case in all states with a significant Latino population.

“These numbers tell us it is important to get young folks and the rest of our community inspired,” says Falcon, “and I think one of the missing ingredients is a more effective and forceful Latino leadership fighting for a stronger Latino agenda,” he adds.

In terms of the parties, Manzano says Democrats have to figure out how to hold a more diverse coalition together. As for Republicans, “they’ve maxed out on the white vote. For them, it’s how do they build on this more diverse American electorate?”

Proof of this is 2012 voting patterns of the nation’s minorities. In a historic first, blacks voted at a higher rate than whites in 2012. An additional 1.7 million black voters went to the polls in 2012 compared to 2008, as well as over half a million additional Asian American voters. By contrast, 2 million fewer non-Hispanic whites voted in the 2012 elections, the only group of voters that decreased in 2012.

“It indicates that the 2012 voting population expansion came primarily from minority voters,” states the report.

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