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The Latinx community in the United States has a vital role to play in this year’s presidential election, in which it could be one of the decisive voices

Latinx voters are the largest ethnic group eligible to vote in the US in 2020, surpassing the number of African American voters in a US presidential election for the first time. 

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Around 60 million Latinos live in the US, of which only one-quarter are naturalized immigrants. Latinos represent 18.5% of the total US population, and more than 32 million Latinos are eligible to vote in this year’s presidential elections. Of those eligible to vote, around 10% are naturalized citizens — some 23 million people — and of that total the largest group is Mexican immigrants, representing 16%. 

Here are five facts that the Latinx community — and all voters — should know about this important and diverse part of the electorate ahead of Nov. 3.

1. The Fastest Growing Ethnic Group in the US

The presence and influence of Latinos in the US is expanding, and it is the ethnic group with the fastest demographic growth. According to an analysis by the Pew Research Center, based on data from the US Census Bureau, the US population grew by 18.9 million people between 2010 and 2019, with the Latinx population accounting for 52% of that total. 

During the last decade, the growth of the Latinx community was above the national average in six states: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Mississippi, while in 21 states the growth of the Latinx community represented more than 50% of total population growth.

Such figures discredit the myth that the Latinx presence in the US is solely concentrated in the southern border states and Florida, the traditional entry points for Latinx immigrants, although the states with the largest Latinx populations continue to be California, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico, which are home to half of the country’s Latinx population.

The growth of the Latinx community, and its increased participation in elections, has resulted in a record number of Latinx legislators in the US Congress. According to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), following the 2018 midterm elections, the number of Latinx congress members increased from 34 to 38, while there are four Latinos with seats in the US Senate.

At a local level, the two states with the largest Latinx presence are also those with the largest number of Latinx legislators. California has 28 Latinx legislators in its state legislature, as a result of the 2018 elections, while Texas has 38.

However, despite the increase in the number of Latinx members of congress, the community continues to be under-represented at a local, state, and federal level, according to David Kallick, director of the Immigration Research Initiative of the Fiscal Policy Institute. In Texas, for example, one-quarter of legislators are Latinx, but 40% of the state’s population are of Latinx origin. And while Latinos make up 19.2% of the population of New York state, only 10% of the local legislature is occupied by Latinos. 

Stickers in Spanish and English and a roll of tape sit on a table at the headquarters of Jolt, a non-profit organization that works to increase the civic participation of Latinos in Texas, in Houston, Texas on Feb. 20, 2020.
Stickers in Spanish and English and a roll of tape sit on a table at the headquarters of Jolt, a non-profit organization that works to increase the civic participation of Latinos in Texas, in Houston, Texas on Feb. 20, 2020.
Image: Mark Felix/AFP/Getty

2. The Latinx Contribution to the US Economy

The US Latinx population makes a significant contribution to the country's economy. According to a 2017 report by New American Economy, the employment rate among Latinxs is 1% above the national average. The Latino community makes a significant tax contribution to the federal government, and businesses owned by Latinos employ around 2.7 million people across the country. 

According to the latest annual report on the State of Latino Entrepreneurship published by Stanford Graduate School of Business, companies and businesses run by Latinos enjoy faster growth than the average company across the country, and in 2016 generated $470 billion in revenue.

Four out of five Latinx entrepreneurs launched their businesses with the idea of seeking an opportunity, rather than out of necessity, the report states. A popular misconception regarding Latinx entrepreneurs is that they launch businesses out of “necessity,” supposedly finding it more challenging to compete in the market due to a lack of skills, a lower level of education, or other characteristics negatively associated with business performance (such as a limited knowledge of English). However, 85% of new Latinx entrepreneurs are what the Kauffman Foundation labels “opportunist entrepreneurs,” or entrepreneurs who see an opportunity to execute an innovative idea with potential of financial success and recognition.

Furthermore, Latinx immigrants in the US make an important contribution to the economies of their countries of origin by sending money home.

In Mexico, for example, the total amount of remittances sent by immigrants in the US hit a record between January and August of this year, totaling $26.4 billion, a 9.3% increase over the same period of 2019, according to data from the Banco de México. And remittances during the month of August were equal to the federal government's total revenues. 

3. The Issues of Most Concern to the Latinx Community

According to a survey carried out last December by the Pew Research Center, the issues that most concern the Latinx community in the 2020 elections are an increase in the minimum wage, greater government participation in health care to increase coverage, and stricter gun control legislation.

And according to a 2016 survey by the US Department of Labor, around 77% of farmworkers in the US are Latinos, who earn an average annual salary of between $17,500 and $20,000. Only 47% of farmworkers have health care coverage, either paid for by their employers, the government, or privately.

However, despite the number of Latinx voters and their desire to improve their living conditions and the well-being of their families, the number of Latinos who vote remains low.

In the 2016 US presidential elections, less than half of Latinx registered voters cast a ballot. The overall participation of registered Latinx voters in 2016 was 47.6%, a slight drop on the 48% of the total that cast their ballot in the 2012 elections.

4. The Latinx Right to Vote — and the Obstacles

The Latinx community has historically had to fight for their rights in the United States, having been unable to access equal education rights until 1946, for example, and until that year Latinos and Hispanics were segregated from white people in schools.  

Latinos gained the right to vote in 1965 with the Voting Rights Act, which guaranteed the right to vote to all US citizens born in the country or naturalized, but it was not until 1975, with an amendment to that law, that electoral materials began to be translated into other languages, extending access to voting to the country’s ethnic groups.

Nevertheless, people of color and other marginalized groups such as Latinos and Black Americans continue to face obstacles when casting their vote. 

According to a survey carried out jointly by the Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic magazine in 2018, 9% of Latinx voters and an equal number of Black voters said that, in the 2016 elections, they or one of their family members were unable to vote due to not having a required form of identification. 

In comparison, only 3% of white voters suffered the same impediment on Election Day.

The survey also revealed that 14% of Latinos registered to vote in the 2016 elections had difficulty in finding a polling station on voting day, compared to 5% of white voters, while 11% of Latinx voters reported that they were wrongly informed that they were not registered to vote when it came to casting their ballot.

Furthermore, Latinos and Black Americans were twice as likely to not be granted time off from work in order to cast their votes. The survey estimates that the number of Latinx or African American voters that experienced “some obstacle to voting” in 2016 was twice the number of white citizens who reported a similar experience.

5. Latinos Are Among the Most Impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic

Recent studies reveal that Latinos and Spanish speakers have been one of the communities hardest hit by the health crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The mortality rate has increased among the Latinx community in the US, according to the Demographics Department of the University of Texas in San Antonio. The causes include the need to work away from home, exposure to persons who do not use masks, the lack of access to medical attention, and, in some cases, whole families of up to three generations living together that have had to endure lockdown in the same dwelling. 

“Latinos now represent more than 1 in every 5 people that have died from COVID-19 in 10 US states,” said Dr. Rogelio Sáenz, professor and author of the study, adding:

Texas is now the only state in which more than half of the fatalities, 50.1%, are within the Latinx community. And it is likely that California, where 46.3% of fatalities have been Latinos, will soon see the figure surpass 50%. One-third of the persons who have died from the virus in Arizona are Latinos, and more than one quarter (28.4 %) of fatalities in Florida have been Latinos, with 26.5% of the total in New York, and 26.1% in Nebraska.

Considering health care is among the electoral issues the Latinx community is most concerned with this year, the pandemic could influence the Latinx vote and turnout for the 2020 election.

Global Citizen and HeadCount have teamed up to launch Just Vote, a campaign mobilizing young Americans to register to vote ahead of the 2020 election and beyond. As part of the campaign, your favorite artists and entertainers are offering exclusive experiences, performances, and memorabilia — and they can only be unlocked once eligible voters check their voter registration status. Learn more about Just Vote and how you can take action here.


Demand Equity

Election 2020: 5 Facts the Latinx Community Should Know

By Erica Sánchez  and  Adam Critchley