Both sides can — and should — take advantage of the Latino vote

As the 2022 midterm season grows increasingly competitive, Latinos are poised to play an especially pivotal role in determining control of Congress and state homes from coast to coast. . It’s high time for Democrats and Republicans to accept that this voting bloc matters.

Despite the growth of diverse Latino communities across the country, Latino turnout in this year’s primary elections has been low, especially in states with some of the largest Latino populations. As November approaches, it’s time for both parties to figure out why and do the hard work necessary to win the support of our communities.

There is a myth in American politics that Latinos don’t care or understand the importance of voting. In fact, Latinos are extremely engaged and active in their communities – and deeply invested in securing a better future for their families. Yet many Latinos simply don’t see voting as an effective tool to change their lives.

Too often, candidates for office ignore Latino communities, or they may attempt dumb outreach efforts driven by stereotypical and outdated assumptions about the issues that Latinos care about most and how best to communicate with them. As has become apparent in recent election cycles, not all Latinos feel the same on all issues — and not all Latinos vote the same. The issues that are important to a first-generation Cuban-American man in South Florida are different from those that are important to a third-generation Mexican-American woman who grew up in Southern California. For this reason, subsequent voter engagement styles should also be different.

Many Latinos feel abandoned by the political system. They can’t help but remember the promises made and broken at every election. But it’s the candidates’ job to demonstrate to Latinos that meaningful change is possible.

To be fair, both the Democratic and Republican parties have made laudable recent investments to better communicate with Latinos. The Republican Party has invested significant resources in key regions such as South Texas and Florida, as well as opening Hispanic Community Centers in major Latino communities across the country. Democrats have invested millions in nationwide voter education and protection efforts and made seven-figure ad buys in nine battleground states.

But that’s still not enough. While Latino turnout is expected to rise slightly in some states in November, turnout in key state primaries has been low. In California, only 15% of eligible Latinos voted in this year’s primary elections. And even with both parties’ investments in Florida, Latino turnout in last month’s primary was seven points lower than in 2018.

So how can candidates and campaigns do better in 2022 and beyond?

First, talk to us. Research shows that Latino voters often receive minimal reach from political campaigns. Ahead of the hotly contested Los Angeles mayoral primary, a recent NALEO Educational Fund poll found nearly two-thirds of registered Latino voters had not been contacted by any mayoral candidate through any form voter education. In another recent survey of Latino voters in Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas and Florida, nearly half of Latino voters said that they had not been contacted by any campaign.

Second, listen to us and avoid guesswork. Our community is often described as constantly voting one way or another, but we are a diverse community. Recent national surveys have shown that the top issues on the minds of Latino voters are crime and gun violence, jobs and the rising cost of living, and health care. Political outreach needs to be sensitive to this reality — and there are few better ways to figure out how to implement these outreach efforts than by having high-ranking Latino campaign staffers. Take a look at Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who ran in the 2020 Democratic primary with the most Latino support of any candidate, thanks in large part to the more than 200 Latino employees and consultants on his payroll the country.

Finally, policymakers must come together to fund public voter information efforts and provide political engagement resources to Latin American communities. Making voting easier for all Americans — including Latinos — should be a priority for anyone with political power. As things stand, the limits on mail-in voting, early voting, and ballot boxes are additional hurdles for all voters that impede our democratic process. Also related to election accessibility, Spanish-language election resources should be provided in communities when required by federal suffrage law.

Ultimately, engaging Latino voters isn’t just about a candidate winning an election in one jurisdiction. A country of engaged and responsive voters, which has the potential to encompass nearly 32 million eligible Latino voters nationwide, is essential to the viability of our democracy. But the problem of low Latino voter engagement is not something we can solve overnight; we need constant cultural awareness, reflection and dedication from candidates and staff across the country. With Latinos firmly establishing themselves as the nation’s second-largest group of eligible voters, no party can afford to ignore them any longer.

Arturo Vargas is the CEO of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed (NALEO) Education fund.