Becoming a citizen through naturalization allows an individual to exercise one of the most sacred rights and responsibilities bestowed upon Americans by the Constitution: the right to vote. That campaign to urge Latinos to register to vote.
Here are six important facts about Latinos and their voting power.
- The number of Latinos is growing
By 2016, there will be an estimated 58.1 million Latinos in the United States. Between the last presidential election in 2012 and the next one in 2016, the Latino population will increase by 5 million people. Between 2014 and 2060, the Latino population is expected to increase 115 percent to some 119 million people; Latinos will be 29 percent of the U.S. population.
- The Latino electorate is increasing
Latinos over the age of 18 will comprise 16 percent of the U.S. adult population in 2016. Ninety-three percent of Latino children are U.S.-born citizens and will be eligible to vote when they reach age 18. This contributes to the fact that people of color already make up nearly a majority of the under-18 population nationally.
- The Latino share of eligible voters is growing
- Latinos are underrepresented on registered voter rolls
In 2012, there were 13.7 million Latinos registered to vote. However, given that 23.3 million Latinos were eligible to vote that year, 9.6 million Latinos, 41 percent, were eligible to vote but did not register.
- Latinos are showing up in greater numbers at the polls
More than 11.2 million Latinos voted in the 2012 presidential election. While impressive, that still means that 2.6 million Latinos who were registered did not vote. For 2016, estimates show that the Republican presidential nominee must garner the support of 47 percent to 52 percent of Latino voters in order to win the general election.
- Immigration is the top issue for Latino voters
Polling clearly shows that immigration is the key issue for Latino voters, with wide support for comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship and implementation of the recent administrative actions. Immigration comes in significantly ahead of the next two top issues, the economy and education.
In the aftermath of the 2012 elections, analysts described the increasing power of the Latino vote. Expected and potential shifts could have dramatic electoral consequences: a growing Latino population turning 18 every year, many more lawful permanent residents naturalizing, an increase in eligible Latinos registering to vote, and additional Latino voters turning out to the polls. These numbers show that not only are Latinos already a growing segment of the electorate, but tremendous potential also exists for Latinos to gain much more political power in 2016 and beyond.
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Lizet Ocampo is Associate Director of Immigration at the Center for American Progress.