Young Latino Vote

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A recent report from the Pew Research Center states there are 27 million eligible voters and the majority of them are young. The research also says voter turnout among young Latinos is the lowest turnout among voting eligible Latinos and the lowest of any racial group.
Tomas Robles, executive director of Arizona Center for Empowerment discusses the issue.

Jose Cardenas: Latino voters are expected to make up about 12% of the electorate this presidential election. A recent report from the pew research center states there are 27 million eligible voters and the majority of them are young, which makes this a voter group with the potential to influence generations to come. The research also says voter turnout among young Latinos is the lowest turnout among voting-eligible Latinos, and the lowest of any racial group. Joining me to talk about young Latino voters is Tomas Robles, executive director For Arizona center for empowerment, also known as Ace. Good news bad news. Numbers are growing. At least based on past performance, that may not have the impact that one would hope.

Tomas Robles: Well, I wouldn't look at it as good news bad news, but it is definitely a lot of work that we have to do, I mean, when you look at the Latino electorate, 44% of them are millennials. And to top them off, the average age is 19 years old. 19 years old, sometimes voting isn't the most significant part of your life. For us, it is really dealing with those millennials that are just coming of age. You look at from 2012, 2016, over 3 million Latino voters turned 18. You have 3 million 18-year-olds in that time period. Some of them are now 22. Just learning how the electoral process works. If you look at it in the sense of time, millennials for Latinos are some of the most educated both through college education but also through the electoral process. My first time voting as a millennial was 18 in 2000. Now as a 33-year-old man, I'm fully understanding what the electoral process -- for us it is getting the education process to the community and young people so that they understand that this election in a lot of ways more than past elections is very vital to who they want representing them.

Jose Cardenas: One of the things that the pew report in particular I think mentioned was that the Latino vote in the general election, at least presidential level, may not be as significant because the concentrations are in states that go one way or another and it is not going to make much of a difference. This year may be different with respect to the primaries because of what looks like a much closer race than anybody anticipated between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and Nevada will be a battleground state where Hispanics are a significant part of the electorate. Talk about that.

Tomas Robles: That against stems from the education, how educated our voters are especially millennials. Now our voters are looking at what the issues are and how candidates in the past have voted for the issues. Understanding what a track record is for a candidate. Understanding how this candidate may or may not vote to an issue that matters to them. A lot of millennials, Latinos, one is immigration, second is college affordability and also economics and the job market. I think what we're seeing especially in the primaries and also on the republican side, you have Texas, a very large Latino population. A lot of them are registered as independents and some even as republicans, will make a significant impact not just on the democratic side but the GOP side. Even though our base of young Latino voters are young, they are also getting more educated and a lot of folks in other electoral blocks. As a lot of other groups are getting older, our generation is starting to grow not just in population but in education of what it means to be an educated voter.

Jose Cardenas: In many respects, Sanders and Clinton, they're the same on the issues that would be of particular interest to the Latino community. The split seems to be almost young versus old and how cynical you may or may not be in what is going on in Washington with the suggestion that the young people for that reason would be more attracted to Bernie Sanders. What's your sense of that?

Tomas Robles: Well, I think Bernie Sanders, he speaks to a lot of what Americans are talking about and in a lot of ways, Latinos are Americans just like everyone wells. They care about the affordability of college, and the futures that a lot of our millennials are experiencing. Graduating from college with tens of thousands in debt and understanding that that will be a hindrance on whether they can buy a home, raise family, get married. All of those are issues that really matter. Also the issue of wage inequality and income inequality. U.S. is one of the nations leading in that category, income inequality. He is speaking to a lot of the issues that matter to young people and that includes Latinos. At the same time you have Hillary Clinton who with the legacy that bill Clinton left behind was very popular and we saw a lot of economic boom in the '90s. We saw our parents gain a lot of equity and a lot of income through that time period. I mean, my parents were a product of the '90s and how they were able to be fiscally successful in that time period. So, I think that race is going to be important because you are going to see a divide on what issues matter to young people now and the reminiscent days of the Clinton administration.

Jose Cardenas: What about on the republican side. Perhaps the person who is least anti-immigrant, at least in some of the rhetoric, is Jeb Bush, but he doesn't seem to be doing very well. Everybody else, including Marco Rubio who seems to have changed positions, very anti-immigrant. How are they going to fare with the young Latino voters?

Tomas Robles: I think that that is a Republican issue that stems throughout the entire party. They are dealing with having to talk to a base that is getting older, that is wider, and against immigration reform and against a lot of policies that - young people and especially other people of color and that really matter to them. What you are seeing is you are almost seeing a divide within the party how do you cater to young people and people of color? They're going to be a significant boost to any party that they join while at the same time keeping the base intact. And, so, I think where you will see with republicans is that they're going to be forced to come to the middle on issues like immigration and especially I think jobs and the economy. And, so, with the GOP races I think what is most important is for them to find the candidate that can talk and can connect to young voters, especially Latinos. And if they don't have a candidate that can do that, it will end up a lot like in 2012, and possibly 2008, where Latinos are going to significantly back the democratic candidate because they support the issues that matter.

Jose Cardenas: What about the fact that you have two potential presidential candidates on the GOP side that are Hispanic?

Tomas Robles: One, Ted Cruz, completely anti-immigrant, completely anti-Latino in many ways. Rubio, part of the gang of eight who helped to write the legislation for comprehensive immigration reform in 2013. I think in terms of gaining the Latino vote, I think Marco Rubio stands a better chance to be able to cross over and gain that support. With that said, he still has a long way to go to get past the primary. Cruz to me does not seem like someone that will gain Latino support just because of his rhetoric and his policies of the past. What concerns me about Cruz is that if we don't get to those voters, if we don't educate them, if we don't have the significant resources that can allow us to talk to these voters, they may just vote for Cruz because of the -- our job, one Arizona, and I think nationwide when you have groups like us who are out there register folks and educate them on what the process is and how to get yourself educated by the candidates, it is really important for us to talk about the issue that each candidate supports or opposes and allow our people to vote based on what their needs are.

Jose Cardenas: We will have a pretty good sense of how this will all turn out with the Nevada caucuses coming in just a few short weeks. Thank you so much for joining us on "Horizonte" to talk about it.

Tomas Robles: Thank you for your time.

Tomas Robles: Executive Director of Arizona Center for Empowerment

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