The future of the Latino vote

José López Zamorano | La Red Hispana 
Photo Credit: Freepik

Every 4 years, in each presidential election cycle we hear something like this: the Latino vote is going to define the electoral result. Everything seems to indicate that 2024 will not be the exception.

According to most experts, the next presidential elections will be defined in 6 battleground states: Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

And of course we know that Joe Biden’s margin of victory over Donald Trump in Arizona and Nevada in 2020 was less than .5% and less than 3% respectively.

That is to say, it is clear that the proportion of Hispanic voters in those two states is much higher than the margin of victory in 2020, so in effect the Latino vote will be decisive, not only in the electoral outcome in those two states, but perhaps in the presidential election.

But the question is, how to achieve a percentage of Hispanic electoral participation that reflects our demographic strength at the polls, at a time when we face serious threats to democracy: misinformation, political polarization, attempts to suppress the vote, hate crimes and even political violence.

Recently, in the midst of Hispanic Heritage Month, I had the opportunity to moderate a panel during the annual meeting of CHCI – the venerable Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. And although there were nuances in the answer to that question, the degree of agreement during the panel was clear:

The Latino community is not a monolith, it is important that the messages of civic participation that arrive are differentiated for each community, ranging from young adults to people over 65, and that they are in their preferred language.

“The best way to reach out to our audience is to reach out early, reach out often, and meet them where they are. That means speaking to them in Spanish at times, but in a culturally competent way. It also means looking for them on all media platforms to ensure that we connect with all ages, all backgrounds,” said California Democratic legislator Linda Sánchez.

For Héctor Sánchez, the president of the voting outreach and voter registration organization Mi Familia Vota, it is essential to understand that Hispanics are not only decisive in the electoral outcome, but have been decisive in defending democracy under adverse conditions, as in the 2020 electoral cycle.

“That’s why political work in the nation’s capital is important, because it’s important that we use that political muscle to advance our political priorities,” he said.

Federico Torre, vice president and regional sales director of Televisa/Univision, highlighted the role of the news media not only in encouraging civic participation, as the company is doing with its “Become a Citizen” campaign, but also in deliberately confronting misinformation designed to suppress the Latino vote.

For the Democratic legislator, and current advisor to the Gifford campaign, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, one of the problems is that there is insufficient representation of Hispanics who appear in the media. There are plenty of businessmen, community leaders and politicians who appear in English-language media, but insufficiently in the Spanish-language equivalent. “We need to show the United States the power of Latinos in this country,” says Mucarsel-Powell.

It is a complex challenge, but it is evident that the empowerment of Latinos in the United States implies addressing it through education, employment, political representation and civic participation. The good news is that many organizations are doing the right thing, the bad news is that many others are either not doing it or doing it insufficiently.