New York Times
By Julia Preston
February 23, 2016
The number of Latino voters has been steadily rising in presidential elections, and now the Naleo Educational Fund, a national bipartisan Latino group, has estimated that at least 13.1 million Latinos will vote in November, a 17 percent increase over their turnout in 2012. That would increase their composition of the country’s electorate to 9 percent.
According to new state estimates by the group (the acronym stands for National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials), Latino voters will increase 7 percent in Colorado, 23 percent in Nevada and 10 percent in Texas — where Latinos are nearly one in four registered voters, or 23 percent.
The figures are low estimates, based on projections from Latino voting in the last four presidential elections, the group said. The rapid growth comes mainly from Latino-Americans reaching voting age in a population tilted to young people, and from legal immigrants becoming citizens. But in past cycles Latinos lagged behind other voter groups in registration rates and turnout. Naleo’s estimates do not project possible effect of registration drives or campaigns, like the one that Univision is undertaking.
“We are only going up, but the question is how far,” said Arturo Vargas, executive director of Naleo. “We still have a performance gap.”
The Democratic contenders, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, are already vying for Hispanic-American votes that could be critical in several primaries and help to sway swing states in November. In the Democratic caucuses in Nevada last weekend, poll and precinct results left unclear which candidate won Latinos, after both competed hard for those voters. But on March 1, Mrs. Clinton could get a boost from Latinos in Texas, where the Clinton name attracts party loyalty among embattled Democrats in a state in which Republicans dominate.
Even though two Cuban-American Latinos are among those fighting for the Republican nomination – Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida – until Tuesday’s caucuses in Nevada Republicans have not been on terrain where they needed to court Latinos. In Nevada, they are not the big prize: Only 17 percent of registered Latinos are Republicans, according to Naleo, while 55 percent are Democrats. But going in to Texas on March 1, Latinos could give extra help to Mr. Cruz on his home turf in his battle with Donald J. Trump. Mr. Cruz has taken a hard line on immigration, an emotional issue for Latinos, but not as hard as Mr. Trump, who wants to build a wall along the southwest border to keep Mexicans out.
Democrats are increasingly confident Latinos will back them strongly in November, but the question for them is by how much. In 2012, 71 percent of Latinos voted for President Obama while 27 percent went for Mitt Romney.
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