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California youth, Latino and Asian-American vote jumped in 2018

Last year, 27.5 percent of young Californians voted, up from about 8 percent in 2014, and 36 percent of eligible Latinos voted, up from 17 percent.
A first time voter casts her ballot during the midterm elections in Norwalk,
A first time voter casts her ballot during the midterm elections in Norwalk, California, on Oct. 24, 2018.Lucy Nicholson / Reuters file

The 2018 midterm elections saw a substantial increase in the turnout among California's young people, Latinos and Asian Americans eligible to vote compared to 2014, new data shows.

In addition, Latinos and young people made up larger shares of the overall turnout, according to the research released Tuesday by the California Civic Engagement Project, part of the University of Southern California's Sol Price School of Public Policy.

Despite the higher turnouts, disparities in voter registration and turnout persist between whites and underrepresented groups, project director Mindy Romero said.

Overall, 50 percent of California’s registered voters cast ballots at the polls. That matched the turnout rate of 1982.

“This is the highest (registered voter) turnout we’ve seen since 1982 and we did see, as we would expect, that it increased for everyone,” Romero said in a telephone interview with NBC News. “But the question is, did underrepresented groups gain any ground?”

Romero said there was some narrowing of those gaps in November, but that they still persist.

For Latinos, 36 percent of those eligible to vote turned out, up from 17 percent in 2014, a year that saw record low turnout for all voters.

The turnout rate for eligible Asian-American voters was 33 percent in 2018, compared to 17 percent in 2014, the last midterm election.

But it was the young voters who saw the biggest turnout jump. In 2014, just 8 percent of California’s 18- to 24-year-olds showed up at the polls. That climbed to 27.5 percent in 2018.

"Not only were young people out and about talking about issues they care about, but they were directly connecting it to voting," Romero said at a Sacramento event where the data was released.

The research did not have enough data to break down numbers for African-Americans, but non-Latino, non-Asian voter turnout was 60.8 percent, up from 39.7 percent in 2014.

The voter surges helped diversify the electorate a little more.

Young voters increased the size of their share of the overall vote to 7.6 percent, up from 3.8 percent.

Romero said that increase is notable because the state's young population has been decreasing.

The share of all California voters who are Latino grew to 21.2 percent in 2018, about six percentage points more than in 2014. That almost matched the 22.6 percent share of Latino voters in the 2016 presidential election. In 2014, Latinos were 15.4 percent of California’s overall vote.

California's Asian-American voters' share of the overall vote was 8.3 percent, matching 2016, but an increase from 7.4 percent in 2014.

Unlike 2014, California had a number of competitive races last year, including competitive primaries for governor and the U.S. Senate.

The state also had several competitive congressional races that were key to Democrats taking control of the U.S. House, including some with an electorate that was 10 percent or more Latino.

“We had a lot of money that came into this state and we had a lot of homegrown mobilization efforts. We did see a lot of effort in mobilizing folks,” Romero said.