Politics & Government

Report documents potential Latino voting power in midterms, as well as turnout issues

A record 25 million Latinos are eligible to vote in the upcoming midterm elections, and if history is a guide they will also cast a record number of votes, according to a new report.

But if history holds true as well, Latinos will leave far more votes on the table than they cast, due to participation rates that significantly lag those of whites or African-Americans.

The nonpartisan Pew Research Center examined Latino voters and their potential impact on the 2014 midterm elections, finding that they have a small share of the potential vote in most of the high-profile races that could determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.

The report, released Thursday, also detailed how the eligible Latino voting population has grown with each midterm election cycle: In 2002, for example, there were about 14.5 million Latino U.S. citizens who were adults and therefore eligible to participate in elections; that will be 25.2 million this year.

But not all eligible voters are registered to do so, Pew pointed out, and not all registered voters actually vote. During the 2010 midterm elections, a record 6.6 million Latinos voted, and their turnout rate was 31.2 percent – below whites (48.6 percent) and African-Americans (44 percent).

“More than twice as many Hispanics – 14.7 million – could have voted but did not,” the report said of the 2010 midterm elections. Pew’s analysis was based on U.S. Census Bureau data and Pew Research Center surveys. The full report can be accessed here.

For the first time, 11 percent of all eligible voters nationwide are Latino, the report said.

But when it comes to the Senate battlefield, Latino’s numbers are muted.

Pew cited eight tight races, all of them pivotal as Republicans are in a strong position to take over the Senate. The eight close races: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana and North Carolina.

In those races, the average percentage of Latinos among eligible voters is just 4.7 percent. Only one of those states tops 10 percent – Colorado, at 14.2 percent Latino – while most are in the low single digits.

Of 14 tight congressional races, the overall share of Latino voters – 13.6 percent – is higher than it is among the Senate races. But that’s mostly a function of the South Florida district of U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, where 62.3 percent of eligible voters are Latino. (Other districts had higher Latino percentages; the report focused on competitive races.)

On the other end of the spectrum is a district in West Virginia, where less than 1 percent of eligible voters are Latino.

Among tight gubernatorial races, Florida is also tops: The 2.3 million Hispanics eligible to vote make up 17 percent of eligible voters in the state, Pew said, the highest share of any competitive gubernatorial state. Second is Colorado.