Much has been made of the importance of the Latino vote to both major political parties during the last two election cycles, but a closer look at voter participation rates proves that it was just the tip of the iceberg. Latino influence could be significantly greater.
Less than 50 percent of eligible Hispanic voters voted in 2012, about 11.2 million of a total of 23.6 million. During the 2010 Midterms, the number was closer to 31 percent.
As we enter a new election cycle, the important question is whether we as Latinos will leverage the full extent of our political power?
Simply put, this is just the beginning. Societal and cultural transformations are complex processes that take time to grow and develop into their full potential. In spite of our deep historical roots in America, the role of Latinos as a major force in American politics and culture is still in its early stages.
But other factors are at play. Inaction on key issues from both sides of the aisle can make Latinos (and all Americans) feel like strangers in their own land.
Individually, many may believe their voice does not count. It is up to political leaders to show them they are an integral part of the country's future and that the issues they care about -- jobs, education, health care, immigration -- are legislative priorites.
We have reached a fork in the road and depending which path Latinos choose, the future could yield us greater power than any other ethnic group in influencing the current cultural evolution of America, including its policies and its institutions.
Let's look at the numbers.
"Hispanics today make up 11.3 percent of all eligible voters. But voter turnout among Hispanics has not kept pace with the growing number of eligible voters in recent national elections, especially the midterms. In 2010, Hispanics cast a record 6.6 million ballots out of 21.3 million eligible voters, a turnout rate of 31.2 percent. But that was still far below the turnout among black voters (44 percent) and white voters (48.6 percent)," according to a recent article by the Pew Hispanic Center.
There is no doubt that Latinos had a significant impact on both of President Obama's electoral victories. What most people don't know is that, in spite of their effect on the results, ours is only half of a success story. In fact, we left more than half of our political power on the table. In 2012, both white and black voters voted in much larger numbers relative to their population totals.
What's more, 13 percent of eligible Latino voters who didn't vote say it was simply because they forgot. That's more than double the national average. We need to find ways to illustrate the relevancy in their lives.
So why aren't they voting? Why are Latinos so disengaged from the electoral process?
Some of the more significant issues affecting turnout include dissatisfaction with politicians' inertia on key issues, unfamiliarity and inexperience with the American electoral process and possible voter suppression and intimidation.
On the other hand, several experts believe a record number of Latinos will turn out to vote next November. If they do, it is clear sign that they are beginning to understand their power.
Our mission is to inform all Latinos, irrespective of their political beliefs, about how powerful each of their voices can be on Election Day. Together, we can drive change in America. As such, we are convinced that, politically, this is one of the most important issues of the 21st century.
With this task in mind, we created an investigative documentary, El Voto Hispano, which explores the electoral tendencies of the Latino community and looks at why they are leaving so much power and influence on the table.
To ensure an objective and non-partisan effort, we decided to fund it through a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. The campaign will run for 4 more days, until the 27th of April. Anyone can join the movement and contribute what they choose.
The question isn't whether Latinos will turn out to vote next November, the question is why aren't they engaged enough to fully tap their potential to elect leaders responsive to their needs. Our film will try to provide an answer and empower Latinos to change America with their vote.