October 1, 2012

A Record 24 Million Latinos Are Eligible to Vote, But Turnout Rate Has Lagged That of Whites, Blacks

II. Trends in Latino Voter Registration

Just as the number of Hispanics eligible to vote in the nation’s elections has grown, so too has the number of Hispanics who are registered to vote. Since 1986, the number of Hispanic registered voters has more than doubled, reaching a record 11.6 million in 2008.

However, in 2010, according to an analysis of data from the Voting and Registration supplement of the November CPS supplement, the number of Hispanic registered voters was 11.0 million, down from the record 11.6 million in 2008.5

There are several possible reasons for this decline. First, 2008 was an historic election year with a record voter turnout. The Democratic primary contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton generated high level of interest among Latino voters, including the many who live in California and Texas, states that, because of their position on the primary calendar, often don’t have much of a say in the outcome of the race (Minushkin and Lopez, 2008). This may have contributed to a spike in Latino voter registration to 11.6 million from 9.3 million in 2006. Overall, nearly half (48%) of all Hispanic eligible voters reside in California and Texas.

Second, the economic downturn may have impacted voter registration of Latinos. Because the foreclosure and housing crisis hit Hispanics harder than other groups, many Hispanics may have had to move. That could mean that a disproportionate share of their voter registrations lapsed as a result of a change of address (Gonzalez, 2012).

While national data on voter registrations among Hispanics won’t be available until after the November election, some states do publish voter registration statistics for Hispanics.

According to the Florida Department of State Division of Elections, the number of Hispanics registered to vote in that battleground state stood at 1.6 million as of July 16, 2012, up from 1.4 million in 2008. In Georgia, the Secretary of State Elections Division reports that 105,000 Hispanics are registered to vote this year, up from 82,000 in 2008. In the case of North Carolina, another battleground state, the State Board of Elections reports that 102,000 Hispanics are registered to vote as of September 22, up from 68,000 in 2008. The Secretary of State Elections Division in Alabama reports that 15,000 Hispanics were registered to vote as of August, up from 12,000 in 2008.

Growth in the number of Hispanic registered voters in each state may reflect Hispanic population growth. Between 2000 and 2010, Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina experienced some of the fastest Hispanic population growth. In each, the Hispanic population doubled or nearly doubled (Passel, Cohn and Lopez, 2011).

  1. A portion of this decline in Hispanic voter registrations—about 100,000 registered voters—can be attributed to the CPS weights used. As noted in the methodology section of Passel and Cohn (2010), population estimates from the CPS rely on weights that are linked to the Census Bureau’s official population estimates of the civilian non-institutional population of the nation. Each year, the Census Bureau produces a new estimate of the U.S. population, updating the enumeration of the previous census and reflecting changes in the number of births, deaths and net international migration. Normally, this updating has a minor impact on the resulting CPS estimates. However, in 2007 and 2008 the Census Bureau made major revisions in the methodology used to measure population change since the 2000 Census. These revisions had a notable impact on the resulting estimates of the Hispanic population, which in turn affected population figures based on the CPS, including estimates of the number of registered voters. Taking updated Census Bureau population estimates for 2008 into account, there were an estimated 11.5 million registered Hispanic voters in 2008, 100,000 fewer than originally reported by the Census Bureau based on the unrevised population data.