On Latino turnout

I don’t know how to make more Latinos vote. But I do know these things:

1. Whatever it is that Texas Democrats have been doing, assuming there is something that qualifies as some kind of action in this area, it ain’t working; to be slightly more charitable, it ain’t working as well as it should or could be.

2. The one thing that I can’t say I’ve seen much discussion of when talking about Latino voting is funding. Whoever it is that’s responsible for getting more Latinos to the polls – the TDP, the local parties, the candidates, other groups – doing so costs money. Why don’t we start by talking about putting together the funding for a real Latino outreach/turnout effort? I’m quite sure there are plenty of people who know how to do that. With sufficient resources, the rest can be figured out. We can learn from what other states do, and if all else truly fails, we experiment. There’s no place to go but up.

3. Whoever takes on that challenge – and I hope there will be multiple groups doing so – a core part of their mission will need to be dealing with the vote-suppression organizations that crawled out from under various rocks this year. Look at what happened with Houston Votes, a non-partisan non-profit that was just trying to register voters, and then imagine the hysteria that will accompany a partisan effort to get Democratic-leaning voters to the polls. From this point forward, any group that doesn’t start out with a plan in place for fighting back against these jackwads is committing malpractice and isn’t worth supporting.

4. One reason why Latinos are such a rapidly growing segment of the population is because on average they’re a lot younger than the rest of us. That means that any outreach/turnout strategy has to think in terms of reaching a younger audience, which among other things doesn’t consume news and media the way us old farts do. As an extra added bonus, younger people in general tend to vote Democratic, but don’t vote in numbers commensurate with their share of the population, so any strategy aimed at getting Latinos to vote should also work pretty well for getting millennials to vote, too.

5. Another thing that I can’t say I’ve seen discussed much, if at all, is what we think Latino turnout “should” be, given factors such as age, education, income level, and so forth. What research, if any, exists to provide objective data? Yes, I know, the answer is “As high as possible”. The question is, how high is possible? How high is reasonably achievable, at least in the short term?

6. For the record, here’s how turnout in the Latino State Rep. districts in Harris County compare over the last three non-Presidential year elections:

Dist 2002 2006 2010 d0610 d0210 ======================================= 140 24.80 17.45 25.57 +46.5 +3.1 143 26.31 18.77 26.48 +41.1 +0.6 145 29.79 21.47 29.38 +36.8 -1.4 148 34.62 30.53 40.08 +31.3 +15.8

“D0610” and “D0210” are the percentage differences in turnout from 2006 to 2010 and 2002 to 2010, respectively. For the most part, it’s a modest improvement over 2002, the year in which the Tony Sanchez campaign did a decent job of getting Latinos to vote. Does this change anyone’s perception? Here’s what it looks like at the state level, for a few selected counties:

Year Cameron El Paso Hidalgo Maverick Webb ==================================================== 2002 29.67 28.81 27.87 26.52 41.99 2006 24.48 24.16 17.08 15.49 18.12 2010 23.52 23.28 24.63 26.40 27.43

I have no idea what’s going on in Cameron and El Paso. Webb’s performance in 2002 was juiced by being Tony Sanchez’s home county. Again, does this change anyone’s perceptions, one way or the other?

For what it’s worth, here’s how Bill White compared to Chris Bell and Tony Sanchez in the two-party race against Rick Perry in these counties:

Year Cameron El Paso Hidalgo Maverick Webb ==================================================== 2002 60.71 64.69 68.90 80.38 89.87 2006 49.86 52.28 56.00 63.00 66.60 2010 58.39 62.54 67.78 73.26 76.72

Remember, these numbers do not include Strayhorn, Kinky, or any third party candidates. White ran about ten points better than Bell, and was close to Sanchez outside of his back yard. Not a bad performance if you ask me. There’s already some arguing about how Perry did with Latino voters. Next year, when all of the relevant election data is available for all State Rep districts, I’ll do the same analysis on them as before, and we’ll see what we get.

7. Let’s keep some perspective here. Increasing Latino turnout will only get you so far. If there had been 100% participation in these five counties, with everyone getting the same percentage, White would have netted an additional 222,716 votes, and still would have lost by about 400,000 votes. Maybe in another year that would have truly helped, but even in 2006 Perry won by a wider margin than what this would have gained. Now of course there are plenty of Latino voters elsewhere, and there may be some level of turnout at which the election could have been tipped. I won’t know till I get more data. Point is, this is only one piece of the puzzle. A big piece, to be sure, but not the only one. I’ve said this before, after the 2008 election, Latinos don’t just exist in these counties and State Rep districts. They live everywhere, and a real outreach/turnout strategy needs to take that into account.

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19 Responses to On Latino turnout

  1. John Cobarruvias says:

    the republican party has the answer: Give them free turkeys and bikes to their kids.

  2. blank says:

    Without looking too closely at the numbers, I would surmise that a more inspired Latino base would have saved Rodriguez and Ortiz at the congressional level and many seats at the state house level.

    As for Perry’s numbers in 2006, I recall Perry racked up endorsements from the border mayors. That’s probably why Bell’s numbers look weak compared to those of Sanchez and White.

  3. Houstonian says:

    I think the lack of Latino Turnout is due in part to a tepid approach to supporting a path to citizenship. Texas Latino’s pay attention to national politics and those policies have a coattail affect on support for state candidates. Notice Harry Reid this election cycle. The Latino vote is largely responsible for putting him over the top. Granted Angle pushed a hard anti-immigrant stance but Reid introduced the DREAM act and got a vote on it(not as a single bill BUT it was progress none the less). Texas democrats haven’t pushed a pro-immigrant stance as publicly probably because there is still a sizable constituency that is anti-immigrant and they definitely vote. Maybe the only way of addressing the immigration issue on a pro-immigrant side is to have a democratic candidate make this the issue. The fact is that Republicans in Texas know that they will have to get the Latino vote in the future to win and they will find a way. Perry got out in front with the Tea Party gaining their support, got in front of KBH and defined her on his own terms, and had to barely shake a stick at defeating Bill White because of his previous TP cred. The worst mistake Democrats can make is to keep stalling on this issue. If they let Republicans define the immigration issue before them and don’t work with the Latino community in their own platforms, they will loose control of Texas for longer than I’d like to think about.

  4. John Cobarruvias says:

    Houstonian, you think too much. It was the free turkeys and bikes. Really.

  5. B Davis says:

    It requires building long-term relationships with the Hispanic communities (note the plural) and doing more than filing legislation to stop sugary drinks in schools and retrofitting parks with green energy. We have to have long-term (august-november is not long term) presence in the Hispanic communities helping with job fairs, trade/vocational classes, computer use. How about offices where folks can use computers, get a free email address, take English classes. Would you only help, or let alone even only see, your family 3 months each year and expect to have a relationship with them? Yet that is what we do with Hispanics and then expect them to love our Party.

    What about Family Festivals sponsored by the Democratic clubs/orgs? How about an Adopt-a-community program by the clubs/orgs? Each one adopt a Hispanic neighborhood. Do baby supply drives for the adopted neighborhood, host a neighborhood party for them and start building relationships.

    If our State Leg delegation can find a leader among themselves and put their self service behind them and work on unified front to push aggressive legislation – for example – tie legislators pensions to the budget – if a deficit exists, legislators and executive elected’s lose one year towards their vesting in retirement. It will never pass b/c the R’s won’t let it. But that’s the point – THEY don’t want it. They want to make being here illegally a class A misdemeanor? Then make it a felony if they accept a campaign contribution from anyone receiving a benefit from an illegal. They’ll kill that one too! Add it as an amendment and they’ll kill the bill. But they’ll kill it and anger their base and each other.

  6. Houstonian says:


  7. John Cobarruvias says:

    You guys have a problem. You think too much. Your ideas are solid and right on, but will not work.

    Seriously, look what the republicans did. Nothing but put a HQs on the east side. Distributed free $5 turkeys during Thanksgiving and gave away bikes (that they didnt buy, they were donated) to their kids for passing the TAKS test. Cheap. Easy. They even got news coverage for it.

    Watch next week. It will be all over the news. Harris County Gives the Bird to Hispanics.

    Then next May they will give their kids a cheap bike and ride them for life.

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  9. Houstonian says:

    Never thought that thinking too much was a problem. Besides, Republican outreach in the form of turkey’s and bikes on the east side doesn’t cover all of Texas. It’s a novel approach but not one that addresses immigration reform.

  10. RudyTejano Pena says:

    CorpusChristian Tejano
    It’s imperative and of paramount importance that those of us, who believe and support the Democratic Party understand the principles and objectives of the party. Elected officials ultimately duty is to serve and work hard for the best interests of the citizens, they represent. Primarily it’s the responsibility of the candidate to be informed, prepared and ready for the position. Ultimately it’s the party leadership that must work in concert to find and select the best qualified person to run and represent the Democratic Party. We must keep in mind that it’s the merits and commitment of the person running that matters and of utmost consequence to the voters. Concentrating and pointing out the short falls of an opponent and promoting change is no longer the best way to convince today’s informed and educated voters. Candidates must deliver personal, credible and convincing attributes that support their candidacy.
    Contrary to popular believe in the Great State of Tejas it’s been the silent Tejano and Tejana majority, that have made the difference, in important elections of the past. The Democratic Party must tap on, promote to and recognized the significance of the Tejano and Tejana voters. Keep in mind many informed, educated Tejano/a voter is no longer easily persuaded. The time has come to select and elect a Tejano or Tejana as the next Governor of Tejas. We must be at our best to be able to help the rest.

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  12. Flavia says:

    Maybe because the White and Perry platforms on immigration were indistinguishable. Seriously. In a non-presidential year, you motivate the base. This did not motivate the base. At all.

    Just a perspective from your target demographic, a 22 year old Latina.

    Great post!

  13. sylvia says:

    The Raza Unida party happened in Texas for a reason — Dems are the problem, not the Latinos. Please see the excellent letter (that offthekuff has archived in pdf form) from Van de Putte and Gallegos to Schumer after the 2008 election where they detail the dismissive experience Latino Dems have consistently had with the party. Schumer’s visit with Lou Dobbs on immigration policy was a slap in the face. Having Colbert make jokes about immigration two days after Dream fails was a total jackass thing to do, Dems have done nothing but smugly feel good about it? Spending millions to tell us the GOP boogeyman is coming is a waste of money. They’ve been in power here 16 yrs and have never been AZ or Angle like. Dems need to incorporate Latinos as voters, policy interests groups and within the party structure. Otherwise, we have other things to do. Stop blaming us when you lose Dems. The firey rhetoric is flaming and Dems never put water on the fire. Holder and Napolitano didn’t even READ 1070 before they went before congress?! None of this is new, as I said, Raza Unida happened in Texas for a reason.

  14. sylvia says:

    Here is link to answer “I don’t know how to make more Latinos vote”


    Dems can start by not doing all the things identified in the linked letter.

    National and many state Dems do not realize (or care) that Latino participation went up in all forms: marches, voting in primaries and 08 and 08 contributions but our lives have actually gotten WORSE.

    GOP pays attention to their activist base. Dems pretend we are not here, no “appetite” for immig reform, remember? Well, I lost my appetite too.

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