WOULD ONLINE VOTER REGISTRATION INCREASE THE LATINO VOTE?
A question that burns on every politico’s mind these days is how to engage more Latinos in the electoral process. Although we are 17% of the population, we were just 10% of the vote in the last election. What’s more, although 24 million Latinos are eligible to vote, only about half do so. Upping the ante even more is the fact that 50,000 Latinos turn 18 every month.
While there may not be a silver bullet solution, at least one tactic has shown some promise with young (read: Latino) potential voters: online voter registration.
In this last cycle, there were 13 states with online voter registration systems, according to a report, including: Arizona, California, Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Nevada, New York, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, and Washington. Several of these states saw historic increases in voter registration as a result.
● Colorado saw a historic increase in voter turnout and 400,000 new registered Colorado voters (of course a marijuana initiative was also on the ballot and the state had invested in voter education).
● In Nevada online registrations peaked at 4,800 a day.
● More than 1 million people used California’s online voter registration system to sign up for the election last year.
● 17,000 new registrants used South Carolina’s registration system within five days.
● Maryland’s system saw 8,000 new registrants in just over two months.
● New York’s system saw 9,500 new registrants in a few months, with 14,000 who updated their information.
Latinos are younger than whites generally: the median age of whites is 41, compared to 27 for Latinos. In California, the state with the largest Latino population, younger people are the ones who tend to take advantage of online voter registration. And, given the fact that in California Latinos are set to outnumber whites this summer, if young voters continue to take advantage of online registration it could result in an increase in Latino registered voters.
Add to this the fact that Latinos overindex on most social media sites and have a higher smartphone adoption rate than whites, and it would seem that online voter registration is as close to a silver bullet to Latino voter registration as we can get.
If states like Texas and Florida were to follow in California’s footsteps, both states where Latinos are a big portion of the younger population, the resulting online voter registrants could be significant. If politicians, governments and other organizations got behind online voter systems, the resulting registrations could be significant for both Republicans and Democrats. If Latinos not only registered to vote online, but then actually went out and voted, their vote could be at least twice as potent.
There are many “ifs” involved. Yet, given the data, it would be an exciting possibility to explore the expansion of online voter registration programs, not only in the Southwest where Latinos are concentrated and have taken advantage of the system, but in the rest of the country as well.
Copyright 2013 by Sara Inés Calderón.
Sara Inés Calderón