One in five residents in the Sacramento region identifies as Latino, and Latinos make up about a quarter of the population in the city and county of Sacramento, according to the most recent census. For the first time, the region has a Latino population large enough to impact the results of elections. But experts say there are many factors at play that don’t always translate population numbers into votes.
“In terms of actual numbers, yes there would be a plurality, in terms of registered voters and voters who turn out, not yet,” said Kristina Flores Victor, a political science professor at Sacramento State. “Those who register to vote don’t always turn out to vote, and those who turn out to vote don’t always turn out for every election. In terms of turnout, we are not yet a plurality.”
She added that across all racial and ethnic communities in the Sacramento region, about 75%are registered voters, but less than that turns out.
“Latino voter turnout is the lowest of all the groups, they turn out less than whites, less than Asians, less than the Black population,” she said.
Rachel Rios, director of La Familia Counseling Center has said, in particular, she feels there has been less outreach from campaigns to Latino communities this year than in the past.
“I think the outreach has been limited this go-around,” Rios said. “I think that’s a concern that many people have had that there hasn’t been the investment in direct outreach that prior elections have had.”
In prior years, she said there’s been more funding for community outreach, distribution of flyers and information sent out in Spanish.
“In general, Latinos are such a large demographic that if they were engaged in voting, their voice would certainly be elevated in terms of the issues that are important to them,” Rios said.
She mentioned that some of the Latino demographics that are overlooked by campaigns and outreach efforts are younger or don’t speak English as a first language. The younger Latinos are particularly important in the Sacramento region, according to a recent study by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The study reports that 31% of Sacramento’s Hispanic-identifying population is 18 and under, as compared to 19% of the non-Hispanic population.
Monica Mares is with Youth Forward and the Sac Kids First Coalition, and is a Meadowview resident. She says in her work with both organizations, and as a Latina herself, she sees the importance of talking about early voting.
“When I ask young people, ‘Do your parents vote, generationally, do you recall your parents being civically engaged and participating in voting?’ more than half are saying no, and a smaller percentage are saying ‘Yes my parents vote, but we don’t really talk about it,’” Mares said. “When we do outreach to youth, it’s like the practice of voting is new within their household.”
Mares says this is a result of people coming from immigrant households where voting may be new, or some peoples’ parents don’t think their vote will matter — and this trickles down to voter participation in younger generations.
Experts say regional organizing may be the key to getting out the Latino vote, which could sway the results in local and statewide elections. And the younger-skewing population means there is potential for this voting bloc to grow in both size and influence in years to come.
Mike Madrid is a political consultant who has studied Latino voting trends in Sacramento for decades. He said there are a few issues he’s watching to see how they could influence Latino turnout, but that overall, Latino voters tend to be moderate Democrats and vote that way.
“There’s a lot of focus that’s been put on Latino voters nationally because there’s been a demonstrable rightward shift the past couple of election cycles, there’s a lot of questions as to whether that’s a permanent shift or a functional one,” Madrid said. He added that he’s curious to see how inflation and economic concerns might determine Latino voting patterns.
Monica Mares says she’ll be interested to see how many of her friends and family — who are Latinos — go to the polls on Election Day. Like Rachel Rios of the La Familia Counseling Center, she said she also hasn’t seen a lot of outreach to Latino communities, and she’s worried that has led to many people disengaging this year.
“If we're talking about targeted outreach and outreach that specifically is engaging a specific community of a cultural background and language, I've seen general voter outreach, but I haven't seen targeted messages in Spanish,” Mares said. “I'm going to be voting, of course. And the only way that I've been really informed on a lot of what's going to be on my ballot is through personal research, and not everybody is going to take the time to do that. That's just the reality, you know?”
There are local organizations that have been working specifically to address getting Latino youth to register to vote, but experts say that is just the first step towards voter turnout. Brown Issues is the largest group in Sacramento that has been doing pop-ups to educate young Latinos about how to register to vote, and will be holding one during this year’s Dia De Los Muertos celebrations at the Latino Center for Art and Culture.
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