Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images
A new CUNY study shows that Latino turnout was a major key in the 2020 election. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

It’s only up from here for Latino voter turnout


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A new study released by the City University of New York (CUNY) has revealed that Latino Americans registered and turned out to vote in record numbers in the 2020 presidential election.

One in every 10 voters was Latino, marking a dramatic rise in Latino voter turnout. According to the CUNY researchers, youth voters, ages 18 to 44, greatly contributed to this astounding increase in both registrations and turnout.

Luis Miranda, board member of Latino Victory and co-author of the study by the Center for Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies at CUNY, said that for the first time, there are “more Latinos registered than African-Americans” and that this trend will continue.

Prior to 2020, the number of eligible Latino voters who actually voted has never gone beyond 50%, according to the researchers. 

But in November 2020, Latino voters hit 53.7% to help President Biden defeat former President Donald Trump. In the 2016 election, when Trump defeated Hillary Clinton, only 47.4% of Latinos voted. 

Last year, 61.1% of all Latino citizens 18 and older registered to vote, marking an increase from the 57.3% who voted in 2016. This is higher than the peak registration of 59.4%, when Barack Obama was elected to his first term in 2008. 

According to NBC News exit polls, at least 69% of Latino voters under the age of 30 favored Joe Biden, making Millennial and Gen Z Latino voters some of the most influential in securing a win for the Democratic party.

Much of this success can be attributed to the relentless “boots on the ground” efforts of advocacy groups such as Mijente and Make the Road Action, who mobilized young voters through various outreach campaigns. 

Twenty-seven-year old Maegan Llerena, state director of the Pennsylvania chapter of Make the Road Action, said that she has been calling Latino voters to action in her community ever since Donald Trump won her state in 2016 by about 44,000 votes. 

Make the Road Action is part of the country’s largest progressive grassroots immigrant-led organization. They made 2.2 million calls and circulated over a million text messages to Latino voters in PA alongside several outer outreach efforts. 

Llerena has no doubt in her mind that Black and Latinx voters delivered the win. 

“We knew the path to victory for Pennsylvania and the presidency ran through communities of color,” she said. 

Llerena recognized that these particular communities were very motivated to push Trump out of office, as they were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and other policies. 

Mijente is a national Latino grassroots movement that originated in 2015 from the #Not1More Deportation campaign. 

Tania Unzueta, Mijente’s political director, worked to mobilize young Latino voters in Georgia and Arizona, two states where Biden was also victorious. 

Unzueta credits these wins to a generation of young Latinos who were raised in Arizona under the restrictive SB 1070 anti-immigrant law, as well as the measures enacted by former controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio

Additionally, the CUNY study showed that of Latinos who were registered in 2020, 88% of them showed up to the polls, surpassing the 2016 mark of just 83.1%.

The trajectory of this rise in Latino registration and turnout is expected to continue, with the large number of Latinos who turn 18 each year and who are increasingly registering and voting. 

While Latino voters ages 18-24 didn’t have the biggest jump in turnout rates by age group, they did rise from 38.4% in 2016 to 44.1% in 2020. 

For Latinos ages 25-44, 56.6% showed out last year, compared to the 47.4% who voted in 2016. 

Additionally, for the first time in the history of U.S. presidential elections, voter turnout of Latinos born in the United States was around the same rate as Latinos who are naturalized U.S. citizens. 

“These increases among Latinos born in the U.S. were the principal statistical cause of the overall surge in registration and voting rates in the 2020 presidential election,” the CUNY report states.  

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