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The enduring question of Latino voting

You can count on there being some number of articles about Latino voting every year. The Chron took its turn on Sunday.

The numbers are formidable. Hispanics made up 31 percent of the Texas population in the 2000 census and will likely be 36-37 percent in 2010. In five of the eight states projected to gain seats after Census 2010 — including Texas — and in all 10 of the states projected to lose seats, Hispanics made up a greater share of the overall electorate in 2008 than they did in 2000.

Hispanic voter turnout in Texas grew by 31 percent between the 2000 and 2008 elections. At the same time, Hispanics make up only about 20 percent of registered voters in Texas and only 12 percent to 14 percent of the total vote.

Lydia Camarillo, vice president of the San Antonio-based Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, contends that the Hispanic vote is actually performing about as well as the Anglo voting public.

“The Latino electorate can be an important factor,” says Camarillo, “but it will not perform at the rate expected unless the resources are spent to energize it. It can’t be, ‘Oh, it’s just going to happen.’ That was the case with Tony Sanchez in 2002.” (Sanchez is the Laredo banker who headed the Democrats’ so-called “dream team” that year and lost in a Perry landslide.)

Jerry Polinard, a political scientist at the University of Texas-Pan American, also notes that a voting population that’s been excluded takes several generations for voting to become the norm. “Women,” he notes, “gained the vote in 1920, but they didn’t gain parity with men until 1968, and now they vote in greater numbers than men. For Hispanics the percentage of the vote is increasing, and the clock is ticking, but it won’t happen overnight.”

Having spent a bunch of time poring over county election returns from 2002 through 2008, I do believe Democrats will do a lot better than they did in 2006 in mostly Latino counties like Webb, Hidalgo, and Cameron, because there will be a much better funded effort to turn out voters in those parts of the state. The goal should be to exceed the numbers from 2002 and get as many of the new voters from 2008 as possible to come out again. Stace has more.

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