I don’t know how to make more Latinos vote. But I do know these things:
1. Whatever it is that Texas Democrats have been doing, assuming there is something that qualifies as some kind of action in this area, it ain’t working; to be slightly more charitable, it ain’t working as well as it should or could be.
2. The one thing that I can’t say I’ve seen much discussion of when talking about Latino voting is funding. Whoever it is that’s responsible for getting more Latinos to the polls – the TDP, the local parties, the candidates, other groups – doing so costs money. Why don’t we start by talking about putting together the funding for a real Latino outreach/turnout effort? I’m quite sure there are plenty of people who know how to do that. With sufficient resources, the rest can be figured out. We can learn from what other states do, and if all else truly fails, we experiment. There’s no place to go but up.
3. Whoever takes on that challenge – and I hope there will be multiple groups doing so – a core part of their mission will need to be dealing with the vote-suppression organizations that crawled out from under various rocks this year. Look at what happened with Houston Votes, a non-partisan non-profit that was just trying to register voters, and then imagine the hysteria that will accompany a partisan effort to get Democratic-leaning voters to the polls. From this point forward, any group that doesn’t start out with a plan in place for fighting back against these jackwads is committing malpractice and isn’t worth supporting.
4. One reason why Latinos are such a rapidly growing segment of the population is because on average they’re a lot younger than the rest of us. That means that any outreach/turnout strategy has to think in terms of reaching a younger audience, which among other things doesn’t consume news and media the way us old farts do. As an extra added bonus, younger people in general tend to vote Democratic, but don’t vote in numbers commensurate with their share of the population, so any strategy aimed at getting Latinos to vote should also work pretty well for getting millennials to vote, too.
5. Another thing that I can’t say I’ve seen discussed much, if at all, is what we think Latino turnout “should” be, given factors such as age, education, income level, and so forth. What research, if any, exists to provide objective data? Yes, I know, the answer is “As high as possible”. The question is, how high is possible? How high is reasonably achievable, at least in the short term?
6. For the record, here’s how turnout in the Latino State Rep. districts in Harris County compare over the last three non-Presidential year elections:
Dist 2002 2006 2010 d0610 d0210 ======================================= 140 24.80 17.45 25.57 +46.5 +3.1 143 26.31 18.77 26.48 +41.1 +0.6 145 29.79 21.47 29.38 +36.8 -1.4 148 34.62 30.53 40.08 +31.3 +15.8
“D0610″ and “D0210″ are the percentage differences in turnout from 2006 to 2010 and 2002 to 2010, respectively. For the most part, it’s a modest improvement over 2002, the year in which the Tony Sanchez campaign did a decent job of getting Latinos to vote. Does this change anyone’s perception? Here’s what it looks like at the state level, for a few selected counties:
Year Cameron El Paso Hidalgo Maverick Webb ==================================================== 2002 29.67 28.81 27.87 26.52 41.99 2006 24.48 24.16 17.08 15.49 18.12 2010 23.52 23.28 24.63 26.40 27.43
I have no idea what’s going on in Cameron and El Paso. Webb’s performance in 2002 was juiced by being Tony Sanchez’s home county. Again, does this change anyone’s perceptions, one way or the other?
For what it’s worth, here’s how Bill White compared to Chris Bell and Tony Sanchez in the two-party race against Rick Perry in these counties:
Year Cameron El Paso Hidalgo Maverick Webb ==================================================== 2002 60.71 64.69 68.90 80.38 89.87 2006 49.86 52.28 56.00 63.00 66.60 2010 58.39 62.54 67.78 73.26 76.72
Remember, these numbers do not include Strayhorn, Kinky, or any third party candidates. White ran about ten points better than Bell, and was close to Sanchez outside of his back yard. Not a bad performance if you ask me. There’s already some arguing about how Perry did with Latino voters. Next year, when all of the relevant election data is available for all State Rep districts, I’ll do the same analysis on them as before, and we’ll see what we get.
7. Let’s keep some perspective here. Increasing Latino turnout will only get you so far. If there had been 100% participation in these five counties, with everyone getting the same percentage, White would have netted an additional 222,716 votes, and still would have lost by about 400,000 votes. Maybe in another year that would have truly helped, but even in 2006 Perry won by a wider margin than what this would have gained. Now of course there are plenty of Latino voters elsewhere, and there may be some level of turnout at which the election could have been tipped. I won’t know till I get more data. Point is, this is only one piece of the puzzle. A big piece, to be sure, but not the only one. I’ve said this before, after the 2008 election, Latinos don’t just exist in these counties and State Rep districts. They live everywhere, and a real outreach/turnout strategy needs to take that into account.