UCLA’s Latino Policy & Politics Initiative’s study of the 2018 midterms found in the states of Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, New Mexico and Texas:
The average vote increase among Latinos was 96% compared to 37% among non-Latinos from 2014 to 2018. The 2018 Midterm Elections are an important indicator for estimating Latino voter participation and candidate support in defining control of the U.S. House of Representatives and the executive leadership for the over a dozen states. Across the eight states, analysis of the official election results suggests growth in the Latino vote was influential in flipping the partisan control of 20 seats from Republican to Democrat in 2018.
California and New Mexico are already solidly blue states, but in purple and even red states significant increases in Latino voting in Arizona, Florida, Georgia and Texas can have huge repercussions not only in the House but also in the Senate and presidential races. And the figures were dramatic in these four states.
In Arizona, the study looked at “547 precincts in Maricopa and Pima counties, the two largest counties in Arizona, which represent 75% of the total state population ... [where] the average increase in the percent change in ballots cast from 2014 to 2018 for the two counties is 40%." In the highly competitive Senate race, the researchers concluded that Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz..) did well in areas with high Latino turnout. “This suggests that Latino voters in Pima and Maricopa counties were instrumental in Sinema’s successful U.S. Senate bid.”
In Florida’s Broward and Miami-Dade counties, “the average increase in ballots cast from 2014 to 2018 for the two counties is 45%.” While Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) won Latinos statewide, the margin wasn’t overwhelming (54 percent to 45 percent), which could well have undermined his chances for reelection. It was the same story in the governor’s racem where Democrat Andrew Gillum won Latinos statewide, but only by a 54 percent to 44 margin.
Georgia doesn’t have a huge Latino population, but the researchers looked at Gwinnett, Hall, and Whitfield counties, which have the largest Latino populations. “These counties all experienced an increase of over 50% in ballots cast from 2014 to 2018, with Whitfield County as high as 74%. ... All three of these counties’ percent change in ballots cast from 2014 to 2018 were higher than the statewide average of 52%.” However, Republican Brian Kemp won Hall and Whitfield with more than 70 percent of the vote. In a close race such as this, any number of factors made the difference, but certainly improving their performance with a growing share of the electorate, Latinos, will be essential for Democrats in 2020 and beyond.
Texas was perhaps the most dramatic example of increased Latino turnout and how it can impact Democrats' fortunes in a previously deep-red state. Researchers found that precincts with a higher percentage of Latino voters increased their turnout more than precincts with a lower percentage of Latinos. That translated into big numbers for Democrats — and specifically for Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.) who lost narrowly to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.).
Democrats had one of their strongest showings in the state of Texas in recent history. To examine the voter breakdown in Texas we analyzed the precinct level returns for the following six counties: Denton, Dallas, El Paso, Harris, Hidalgo, Travis ... which represent 36% of all Texans and an estimated 11 million voters. ...
Precincts with higher percentages of Latino voters preferred O’Rourke over Cruz. ... We estimate that O’Rourke received about 80% of the Latino vote in these 6 counties, compared to Cruz’s 20% share of the Latino vote.
What can we gather from all of this? First, the push to turn out Latino voters is showing success, although an ongoing effort for a sustained period of time will be needed before Latinos turn out at the same rate as white voters. Second, there is a good case to be made that had Nelson, Gillum and Stacey Abrams done a better job with Latino voters, they would have won. Put differently, Republicans in all three races owed their election to a significant extent to Latino voters. Third, if the current trend continues in Texas — skyrocketing turnout of Latino voters who cast ballots overwhelmingly for Democrats — the dream of turning Texas blue (or at least purple) will become a reality. Finally, when looking for a candidate who can beat President Trump, Democratic primary voters must focus on which candidate can excite and turn out the entire Democratic base — including Latinos. (A good question for 2020 primary voters is whether any candidate can match O’Rourke’s success with Latino voters.) In that, Trump — who has made xenophobia, racism and family separation at the border into key components of his appeal to his white base — might be Democrats’ greatest asset.
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