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For 2016, Almost Half the Latino Electorate Will Be Millennials

The Latino electorate in 2016 will be bigger than ever - 27.3 million strong - mainly thanks to youth, naturalizations and Puerto Ricans.
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Almost half of eligible Latino voters are millennials, helping grow the electorate, but presenting significant challenges for turnout, according to the latest Pew Research Center report on Hispanics.

Also, immigrants who have become U.S. citizens and Puerto Ricans who have moved to the mainland from the island increased Hispanic eligible voters to a record 27.3 million for this year’s elections, according to the report.

For about 3.2 million young Latinos, this year will be their first chance to vote in a presidential race. Those newest potential voters make up 44 percent of the Latino electorate.

That’s a higher share than young voters of other races and ethnicities make up of their own communities. Black millennials are 35 percent of all black voters; Asian millennials 30 percent and white millennials 27.

“This goes to show Latino youth is a big part of the voter story,” said Mark Hugo Lopez, Pew’s director of Hispanic research.

The youth of the electorate wasn’t an unknown.

The Latino community and its leaders have been talking, and in some cases, warning, for years about the coming wave of young Latinos. The fact that 50,000 to 70,000 U.S.-born Latinos (meaning they are U.S. citizens) were turning 18 yearly has become a community mantra in the discussion of potential political Latino influence and the challenges of mobilizing a difficult-to-mobilize group of voters.

The newest potential voters make up 44 percent of the Latino electorate.

The Latino electorate’s youth also has been something of an alarm for the community, which has become and will continue to be dependent on a cohort of voters with a poor record of showing up at the polls. In 2012, just 37.8 percent of Latino millennials voted.

“This does present a number of challenges because of the relative size of the youth vote,” Lopez said. It means challenges in getting out the vote, teaching people to register and getting them registered and getting them to the polls, not just for this election but for at least two decades to come, Lopez said.

“That doesn’t mean they shouldn't be reached,” he said.

Luis Blanco, a digital producer of Latino content, said he recognized that challenge after meeting with a few voting eligible Latino millennials and realizing the political interest of the youths.

Together Blanco, 62, and the Latino youths launched MasPOLITICA, a YouTube production that uses video shorts and Latino actors to teach young Latinos about the political system, political issues, “who’s behind it – and who pays for it!” as the MasPOLITICA website says.

“This is the reason why we created the project,” Blanco said referring to the latest Pew numbers. “To get Latinos, as we say, get them inspired, teach them the basics and hopefully get them to participate.”

Related: For Latinos, 1965 Voting Rights Act Came a Decade Later

The tutorials are not like the Sunday talk shows; they are done in English but have some Spanish and Latino cultural references. They also mix in comedy and sarcasm and are intentionally not too polished. They are non-partisan, but progressive.

Related: Knocking on Doors, Getting Latinos to Caucus in Iowa, Impact Primaries

Blanco, who is raising two children, ages 23 and 25, acknowledged politics is a "hard sale" but the MasPOLITICA videos have a strong following on Twitter.

"What we have discovered is every time we do something on immigration, you can see the response. It is because they realize the situation of their parents and they grew up hearing and suffering the whole immigration issue on Latinos," Blanco said.

Immigration has been a central issue in the 2016 elections, with younger Latino voters pushing Democrats to back Obama’s executive actions that would defer deportations for millions of immigrants, to back a path to citizenship and to end accepting contributions from private companies that build and run immigrant detention facilities.

An estimated 1.2 million Latino immigrants have become U.S. citizens between November 2012 and November 2016. Their share of the electorate has been steady at about 25 percent.

In the race for the Republican nomination, the political conversation about immigration shifted further right when Donald Trump jumped in the competition.

But immigrants are becoming voting eligible through naturalizations at about the same rate as young Latinos.

An estimated 1.2 million Latinos immigrants have become U.S. citizens between November 2012 and November 2016, Pew said. Their share of the electorate has been steady at about 25 percent.

And, they do a better job of showing up at the polls. In 2012, 53.6 percent of immigrant Latinos voted.

However, immigrant Latino millennials' turnout in 2012 was 37.8 percent, similar to U.S. born Latino millennials.

Finally, some 227,000 Puerto Rican adults moved from the island to the U.S. mainland. They are citizens so those who register, have the right to vote. Their biggest impact is expected to be in Florida.

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