WASHINGTON – After years of filing and waiting, 21-year-old Jenny Martinez, who was born in El Salvador, finally became a U.S. citizen this summer.
Now he’s among a growing segment of Minnesota’s population: young Latinos who are registering to vote in far greater numbers than their parents. Those new voters will participate in November’s midterm elections and could make a difference in some races.
“This will be the first time I’ve ever voted,” said Martinez, who lives in Apple Valley. “I really feel like it’s going to help the Latino community hear my voice.”
While Minnesota is known for its high voter registration and turnout, that enthusiasm for voting hasn’t been there in the state’s Latino community.
According to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office, as of Aug. 18, 3,561,815 people had registered to vote in Minnesota, a state of about 5.7 million people.
At the same time, according to the predictive modeling of Communidades Organizando el Poder y la AcciohThere are about 65,000 registered Latino voters across Minnesota (COPAL), a state where Hispanics make up about 5.7% of the population, or about 345,000 people, according to the U.S. Census.
Some Latinos cannot vote because they are not citizens. Others come from countries with corrupt governments and are deprived of politics.
Still, advocates like Ryan Perez, COPAL’s political campaign manager, aren’t discouraged by low Latino turnout. They see growing political power as growing numbers of young Latinos like Martinez register to vote. Like other national and state Latino organizations, COPAL has a get-out-the-vote feature on its website and a countdown clock that is set back a second time to the Nov. 8 election.
“While older Latinos may or may not vote, the younger generation is growing up knowing both English and Spanish and is defined by a different experience,” Perez said.
Minnesota’s Latino population is dominated by Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants. But it also contains Puerto Ricans like Perez, Cubans and South and Central Americans.
Different Latin American communities have different concerns. And individuals also make political decisions based on personal reasons. Martinez, who immigrated to Minnesota with her mother and older brother when she was about 4 years old, said easing work permit requirements for Salvadorans and strengthening the rights of agricultural workers are her top priorities.
Perez said Minnesota’s Latinos are also motivated to vote by national concerns such as jobs, inflation and access to health care, as well as the state’s requirement that only citizens be allowed to hold driver’s licenses. While many Minnesota Latinos are citizens or legal residents and can get a driver’s license, they have family members and friends who can’t, Perez said.
It was not always like that. Regardless of status, immigrants in Minnesota could obtain driver’s licenses until 2003, when the law was changed to limit those licenses to people who could prove legal residency or citizenship. Minnesota’s state House voted to end the restrictions, but the effort died in the state’s Republican-controlled Senate.
Latino voters have historically supported Democratic candidates more than Republicans. But there are always exceptions. In a 2020 Pew Research survey, 58% of registered Cuban voters said they affiliated with or leaned toward the Republican Party, while 38% identified with the Democratic Party or the Democratic Party. with the party.
A New York Times–A Siena College poll conducted earlier this month found that Democrats maintained their hold on a majority of Latino voters, driven in part by Latino women and the belief that Democrats remain the party of the working class, while Republicans are more likely to be the party of the elite. :
The poll also found that Hispanic voters are more likely to agree with Democrats on many issues, including immigration, gun policy and the climate. A majority of Latino voters polled, 56%, plan to vote Democratic this fall, compared to 32% of Republicans.
While the economy was a top concern for Latinos polled by Siena College and the New York Times, 61% said abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
Meanwhile, another survey conducted by FiveThirtyEight found that most of the nation’s Latino voters do not have strong ties to either the Democratic or Republican parties because they are first-generation or had first-generation parents who were not politically engaged. and “did not cross their partisans.” views”. That makes many of the nation’s Latino voters “persuasive,” open to both Republican and Democratic political messages.
Another statistic from the American Society of America/Council of America. An estimated 11.6 million Latinos will participate in this election, a 71% jump since the 2014 midterm elections.
In Minnesota, Latinos are concentrated in the Twin Cities, with growing numbers in southern and southeastern Minnesota.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-5threpresents the largest number of Latinos (about 72,000), according to census data compiled for the new counties; Dave’s Redistribution Atlas. Rep. Angie Craig, D-2threpresents the second-most Latinos (54,000), followed by Rep. Brad Finstad, R-1Stwho has 51,000 Latinos in his district, many of whom live in Austin, Rochester and Worthington.
But there are Latinos in all eight of Minnesota’s congressional districts. COPAL chief Perez said they can make a difference in some local races as well as state races where the margin of victory is small.
Perez said the Latino vote could also make a difference in congressional races.
“The potential for impact in CD (Congressional District) 1 is clear,” he said.
That’s because Perez estimates there are roughly 9,000 additional registered Latino voters in 1.St A congressional district after the lines were redrawn to adhere to the 2020 census count.
Perez pointed out that Finstad won a special election last month to unseat former Rep. Jim Hagedorn by about 4,500 votes, while Hagedorn won the seat in 2018 by about 2,500 votes.
Still, it will be some time before Minnesota’s Latinos have even a fraction of the political influence that the growing Latino electorate has in other states, notably California, Texas and Florida.