According to Pew Research Center, the United States electorate for the 2016 election will be the most diverse ever, comprised of 31 percent eligible minority voters. The primary driving force in this number, up from 29 percent in 2012, is the 17 percent increase in eligible Latino voters.
The importance of motivating Latino voters has been the focus of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund. The organization, which has an 85.43 percent rating on Charity Navigator, is described as the nation’s leading 501(c)(3) non-profit group for integrating Latinos in the American political process. The group runs 100 percent on contributions, gifts and grants.
According to its website, “Founded in 1981, NALEO Educational Fund achieves its mission through integrated strategies that include increasing the effectiveness of Latino policymakers, mobilizing the Latino community to engage in civic life and promoting policies that advance Latino political engagement.”
An estimated 27,302,000 Latinos will be eligible to vote in November, nearly half of who are millennials. Pew found that Latino millennials make up the largest share of any other racial group of voters.
While Latinos have the population to influence the election, they have, historically, not mobilized in large numbers: in 2012, only 48 percent of eligible Latino voters actually voted. This stacks up poorly when compared with other groups; during the last presidential election, 64.1 percent of eligible white voters went to the polls, as did 66.6 percent of Blacks. (Statistically, Asians tend to vote at lesser rates than Hispanics, as only 46.9 percent of eligible Asian voters went to the polls in 2012.)
Presidential candidates could potentially gain a significant amount of votes if they shifted their efforts to courting the Latino voters, who, despite previous low turnouts, have seen an upward trend over the past two presidential elections. In 2008, 9.7 million Latinos voted, which served as the record until 2012, when 11.2 million voted. (Although the number of voters increased, it actually went down as a percentage due to the recent surge in the Latino population — in 2008, 49.9 percent of eligible Latino voters went out to the polls, compared to 48 percent in 2012.)
A consistent issue among the eligible Latino voter community is not being engaged by candidates. Prior to the 2014 election, more than half of Latino voters stated they had not been contacted by any of the candidates regarding the election or the issues. That year, 37 percent of Latinos who voted said they did it to support their community, not to support a party or candidate. About one-fourth of Latino voters were not affiliated with the Democratic or Republican Party.
NALEO Educational Fund seeks to engage Latinos in all parts of the American political process. Its website includes a “How Do I” tab and provides links to assist in areas including “become a citizen,” “vote,” “apply for deferred action” and “mobilize Latinos.”
NALEO has also been active in voter suppression, which has been an active issue in states all across the country. Earlier this year the group released a report, “Latino Voters at Risk: Assessing the Impact of Restrictive Voting Changes In Election 2016,” which highlights restrictions the Latino community faces on voter registration and voting, as well as heightened qualifications to vote, laws that weaken the votes of underrepresented communities, practices that hinder Latino voters and the aftereffects of restrictive election policymaking. According to the report, since the last presidential election, 19 states put into effect laws that “could seriously impede more than 875,000 Latinos who are eligible to vote from participating in the 2016 Presidential election.”
In addition to the numerous resources on its website, the organization also operates a toll-free national hotline and website, 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA (1-888-839-8682) and www.veyvota.org. Both the hotline and website provide bilingual, non-partisan resources for anyone with questions regarding the political process.
As of August, 50 percent of registered Latino voters support Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, 26 percent support Trump and 9 percent each support Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Nine percent of Clinton’s total supporters are Hispanic, compared to 7 percent of Johnson’s and 5 percent of Trump’s.