Voting among California's Latinos has increased sharply in the last decade - more than doubling the group's rate of population growth - but it still lags that of other major ethnic groups, a new UC Davis study reveals.
Between 2000 and 2011, the university's Center for Regional Change said, the state's Latino population increased by 31 percent, accounting for nearly 90 percent of the state's overall growth during the period. That ethnic group is due to become California's largest sometime this year.
Between the 2002 and 2010 elections, "the Latino vote grew 67.1 percent ... in absolute numbers, outpacing the 37 percent growth ... in the overall vote during the same period," the report said, adding, "but disparities in electoral participation still exist for Latinos."
Latinos make up 26.3 percent of Californians qualified by age and citizenship to vote, but were just 19.7 percent of the state's voters last year. "Latinos are underrepresented in their share of California's vote because they both register and vote lower than the non-Latino electorate," the report continued. "These disparate trends have been historically consistent and are the case, again, for the 2012 election."
In 2012, the report said, eligible non-Latinos voted at a 57.3 percent rate while Latinos were much lower at 39.4 percent - five points lower than it was in 2008, the previous presidential election year, which usually draws the highest turnouts.
Regionally, the voting pattern study found, Latinos were least likely to vote in Los Angeles and rural counties, and most likely in the San Francisco Bay Area. It also found that while the Democratic bent of Latino voters remained high in 2012 at nearly 60 percent, that was lower than it had been in previous elections. Republican orientation also had declined with more Latinos opting to become independents, mirroring overall trends.
Looking to the future, the UC Davis analysis said that the state's Latino population, now about 39 percent of the total, is likely to hit 45 percent by 2040 while its share of potential voters, now 26.3 percent, will be close to 38 percent then.
PHOTO CREDIT: A volunteer with Mi Familia Vota, a national group that helps Latinos become citizens and register to vote, helps a man with voter registration papers at a Denver library. Matthew Staver / New York Times file, 2012