Although the national Hispanic population is soaring, experts have found that the number of registered voters is declining. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, Hispanic voter registration dropped from 11.6 million in 2008 to 10.9 million in 2010. This decrease of more than half a million voters is noteworthy because it is a significant drop from that which is usually expected in non-election years.
Texas along with California, Nevada, Florida, Washington, New Mexico and New Jersey – states with large Hispanic populations – all saw “significant declines” in their number of registered Hispanic voters. Many believe the recession is one reason for the decline. Antonio Gonzalez, director of the William C. Velasquez Institute and the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, believes “that the recession and mortgage foreclosure crisis explains this decline.”
He adds “[i]t hit blacks and Latinos and the lower-middle class people first. When people lose their jobs or homes, they usually have to move elsewhere. When you move, you have to re-register, and we suspect that didn’t happen in 2009-10.”
Some also believe that Hispanic voters are generally a very young population, and young people, regardless of their ethnic group, are less involved in the electoral process. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, more than a third of Hispanics (34.9 percent) are younger than 18, the legal voting age. Others are still convinced that Hispanic voters have become dissatisfied with the Obama administration.
Steve Murdock, director of the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas at Rice University, believes that Hispanics “have noticed the lack of any progress on immigration reform, and they’re aware that the Obama administration has deported more people than the Bush administration.” Immigration attorney Linda Vega, believes that Hispanics are disappointed in the Obama administration but yet are shocked by the harsh views expressed by Republican presidential candidates. The result is an apathetic Hispanic population that is already struggling to register new voters.
Gonzalez believes the solution is simple: Get people registered. “The Latino leadership needs to invest in their own states,” Gonzalez said. “Texas is a wealthy state [and we] need to be building up voter participation in [our] own state.”
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