Latino voter turnout typically drops in midterm election years. But a new report by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials predicts more Latinos will come out to vote this year than in past midterm elections.
The report projects 7.8 million Latinos will cast ballots in the November elections. That means the number of Latinos who come out to vote this year could increase by nearly 19 percent over the last midterm elections in 2010, when 6.6 million Latinos came out to vote.
The report also projects Latinos will make up about 8 percent of the nation’s voters. Furthermore, it predicts there will be more than 28 million Latinos who are eligible to vote by the 2016 presidential election, up from the current 25.5 million.
“This coming election, we know that Latinos will continue to have an impact on elections, and we want to make sure that every single one of them is able to have a full voice in our elections,” Arturo Vargas, executive director of the NALEO Educational Fund, told reporters Tuesday.
But Vargas also expressed concerns over potential discrimination Latino voters could face at the polls this year.
He noted that in the last election, preclearance protections still existed under the Voting Rights Act.
This meant that states and localities with a history of violating voting rights of citizens based on race or ethnicity had to have any voting law changes cleared by the federal government before implementing them. Nine states, including Arizona and Texas, were subject to preclearance.
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the preclearance section of the Voting Rights Act.
Vargas described preclearance as “an important tool” that helped prevent discrimination against Latinos. He pointed to Texas as an example of that. He said the state — after picking up four new congressional districts following the 2010 Census — drew redistricting maps that didn’t allow Latinos to elect a candidate of their choice.
Texas was sued by multiple organizations, including the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF). Because Texas was subject to preclearance, the Department of Justice determined that the state’s redistricting maps discriminated against Latino voters and prevented the state from implementing them. A federal district court also threw out Texas’ redistricting plans for some of the same reasons.
“Today, Texas has a map for congressional districts that does give more opportunities to Latino voters to elect candidates of their choice, but that was because Texas was forced by the Department of Justice, by advocates, by the Voting Rights Act and by the federal courts to do so,” Vargas said.
Now, Congress has a chance to modernize the Voting Rights Act. One way Congress can do that, Vargas said, is by passing the bipartisan Voting Rights Amendment Act that was introduced in January.
The amendment would restore protections for Latino voters from states and localities that make it difficult for them to register and vote. It would also restore preclearance in four states: Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
“We call upon Congress to move forward with the Voting Rights Act Amendment and restore these protections,” Vargas said.