It’s mostly good news, but it could be better.
While nonpartisan groups say funding is lagging to sign up Latinos to vote in the November election, voter registrations — likely fueled by Donald Trump’s salvos against people of Mexican heritage — are well ahead of 2012 along the Texas border and in the state’s largest counties.
Bexar County last week reported crossing the 1 million mark of registered voters for the first time, an additional 30,000 people this year and 80,000 more than in the 2012 presidential election.
“That’s the size of a small town we’ve registered this year,” Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacquelyn Callanen said.
She attributed the expanding electorate to population growth and to an election season she termed “nonconventional.”
Harris County has posted an increase of 150,000 since 2012, thanks in part to the 1,200 to 1,500 newly naturalized citizens added each month to the voter rolls, Harris County Voter Registrar Mike Sullivan said.
Nonetheless, groups devoted to mobilizing Latinos contend that despite the many newly registered voters, they see complacence by donors and Democratic Party leaders.
“Don’t count on Donald Trump being the guy who’s going to get people out to vote in November,” said Ben Monterroso, executive director of California-based Mi Familia Vota.
Mi Familia, which has offices in San Antonio, Houston and Dallas, has a goal of registering 95,000 people this year across the country. But the group is less than one-third of the way there and at least 10,000 behind the pace of four years ago.
At this point in 2012, the National Council of La Raza had significant operations in Florida, Colorado and Nevada and lesser programs in Texas and four other states.
Last week, the group was fully up and running only in Florida.
“We have one-fifth the funding we had back then even though Latinos are the talk of the town,” said Clarissa Martinez-de-Castro, the La Raza council’s deputy vice president.
Part of the problem, leaders say, involves planning delays due to the late-breaking race for the Democratic nomination. They say, too, that donor money that used to be spent on nonpartisan registration is landing in partisan political operations.
“A lot of it is flowing directly into PACs or focused on ads and mail,” Martinez-de-Castro said, “rather than the retail work and the elbow grease it takes to bring new voters into the equation.”
Harris County had just over 1.2 million registered voters in November of 2012, so that puts us north of 1.35 million, which is quite impressive. Considering that the 2012 total was barely higher than 2008’s, it’s even more so. As for Bexar County, their registered population actually declined by 11,000 voters from 2008 to 2012, so again, impressive. How much more could we have done if all of these groups that focus on voter registration had been properly funded? I couldn’t say. It would be nice to get all these efforts funded, and I expect that more attention will be focused on them now that the primary has finally been settled.
The again, some groups have done better in the resources department than others.
The goal for Latino Victory was spelled out in 2014: Elect Latinos to public office.
Two years later, the group shows signs of becoming a force in national politics, doubling its receipts and operating in campaigns around the country in a year when Latinos have high hopes for political success.
In mid-July, Latino Victory and allies plan to announce a major mobilization of Latino voters around the country to prepare for the November election.
“I think that the Latino Victory Project is poised to help create the national narrative about why it is important for Latinos and Latino families to have a stake in this election and how important it is for us to vote,” Muñoz said in an interview.
They seem to be more about turnout than voter registration, but it’s all part of the same package. In the end, what matters most is the result. Campos has more.