Latinos and Asian-Americans together are now more than half of California's 38 million residents but make up less than 30 percent of the state's voters, who remain overwhelmingly white, according to a new statistical study by a think tank at the University of California, Davis.
The report is a maiden effort for the Center for Regional Change's California Civic Engagement Project, which is delving into issues and trends in California's political landscape.
"During the past decade, Latino and Asian voter registration has increased by nearly 40 percent, dramatically outpacing growth in general registration, yet there remains a significant gap between Latino and Asian registration and their proportion of California's overall population," Mindy Romero, the author of the report, said in a statement. "Addressing these continuing gaps in Latino and Asian registration is a critical step in expanding engagement in California's political landscape."
The study, in which official voter registration rolls were scanned for Latino and Asian surnames, noted that although the two ethnic groups make up slightly over half of California's population, many of their members are non-citizens and also include relatively large numbers of children. So their age- and citizenship-eligible populations are substantially smaller than their overall populations in proportionate terms.
Even so, otherwise eligible-to-vote Latinos and Asian-Americans have registered to vote at rates lower than white and black eligible voters. The overall registration rate for Californians is 77.5 percent of eligible, but for Latinos it's 67.9 percent and for Asian-Americans just 49.4 percent. The study estimates that an additional 520,000 Latinos and 800,000 Asian-Americans would have to register to reach the statewide average.
Among Latinos, the study found, registration rates are markedly higher in urban areas such as Los Angeles than in rural agricultural areas.