06/19/2013 11:27 am ET

Drop In Dallas Latino Representation Highlights Voter Turnout Problem


The Latino community saw its representation decline in the city of Dallas this weekend for the second time this year, where a local race left the city council with just two Hispanic members.

That wasn’t supposed to happen. Newly redistricted Dallas contains some four majority-Latino districts, and the city council traditionally has three Hispanic members. Real estate agent and community activist Jesse Diaz lost the election in a majority Latino district carved out precisely to boost Hispanic representation on the city council.

According to the Dallas Morning News, which endorsed Diaz, the candidate wasn’t strong and neither was the campaign. But a more worrying trend facing the greater Hispanic community also appears to have played a key role -- many Latinos simply failed to show up.

“The results illustrate the difficulty in getting those who are young, unregistered and disconnected from the political process to the polls,” Gromer Jeffers, Jr. writes in an analysis for the Dallas Morning News.

It’s a problem reflected nationally.

A record 23.7 million Latinos were eligible to vote last year, according to the Pew Hispanic Center -- a 22 percent increase over the 2008 election.

But voter turnout continued to disappoint. Only 48 percent of eligible Latinos voters cast ballots in 2012, according to figures released last month by the Census Bureau -- well behind blacks (66.2 percent) and non-Hispanic whites (64.1 percent).

Texas feels the problem of low voter turnout more acutely than most. Latinos account for 38 percent of Texas’ population, but don’t routinely show up to the polls in high numbers.

How much of an impact would increased voter turnout have on the reliably conservative state? If Hispanics voted at the same rate as Anglos, reliably conservative Texas would already be a battleground state, according to an analysis by the Houston Chronicle.



American Latinos: By The Numbers