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Politics / POLITICS

Hispanic Growth Ahead of Political Participation

DALLAS - APRIL 9: Heber Pages, Luis Navarro and Gerardo Navarro dress themselves in regalia in preparation for the Mega March on City Hall April 9, 2006 in Dallas, Texas. According to reports, an estimated half million Hispanics participated in the Mega March to peacefully protest immigration reform. (Photo by Jensen Walker/Getty Images)(Jensen Walker/Getty Images)

April 15, 2011

The Texas Tribune's Ross Ramsey makes an important point that often gets overlooked in the discussion about rapid Hispanic growth across the country.

As the newly-released 2010 Census figures illustrate, the growth among Latinos across the country is impressive and has made battleground Southwestern states more Democratic in recent years. Democrats, like Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chair Patty Murray are openly talking about contesting Texas in next year's Senate election.

But growth isn't the same as voter participation. And Hispanics aren't participating at nearly the same rate as non-Hispanics - and there are few signs that's changing anytime soon.

Ramsey points to his home state of Texas as an example. The population of the Republican-friendly Dallas suburb of Collin County (782,341) is about the same as the Democratic-friendly, heavily-Hispanic El Paso County (800,647). But voter turnout last year was nearly twice as high in Collin County than in El Paso, 156,668 to 88,505.

It's a similar situation in Arizona, where Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) found himself in a surprisingly close contest last year, even though his district is majority-Hispanic and solidly Democratic. But voter participation there was just under 160,000 - one of the lowest totals in any House district in the country - meaning a relatively small proportion of Latinos actually showed up at the polls.

It's something to consider as we look at the presidential battlegrounds, where President Obama is counting on significant Hispanic turnout and support to contest pivotal states like Florida, Nevada, Colorado and even Arizona. Democrats have been more effective at registering Hispanic voters in Nevada, but less so in Arizona and Texas where turnout has been anemic in many of the heavily-Hispanic seats.

And it's a sign that voter registration and education is as important for the president's re-election as voter persuasion.

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