The Mystery of the Latino Vote

Latinos vote in high numbers in other states; why not in Texas?


Dave Mann

“Why Latinos do not vote in large numbers is one of the mysteries of politics.”

 So writes Texas Monthly’s Paul Burka in this pre-Election Day post about the Democrats many woes in Texas. Burka makes some very good points in his post, but I have quarrel with the above statement.

Latinos do vote in large numbers—just not in Texas.

In the 2008 general election, about 50 percent of eligible Latino voters turned out to vote nationwide. In California, Latino turnout was 57 percent.

Meanwhile, in Texas, only 38 percent of Latinos turned out.

You can find those numbers at the Census Bureau site. (I researched this topic a couple of months ago for an Observer cover story on grassroots campaigning and Texas’ low-voter-turnout problem.)

Fact is, if Texas Latinos voted anywhere near the national average (not to mention California levels), Bill White might be measuring the drapes in the governor’s office about now.

California makes for an interesting comparison. In the past decade, Latino turnout has increased considerably. The number of Latino voters grew 85 percent between the 2000 and 2008 presidential elections, according to this report.

I don’t know why Latino voters in Texas (and select other states such as Arizona) vote at a lower percentage. I also don’t have any magic answers as to how Texas Democrats could entice more Latino voters to the polls (although some Democrats contend that a greater emphasis on grassroots organizing, door-knocking and community activities would help).

What I do know is that in other states, Latino voters now comprise a major slice of the electorate. And I tend to think if it can happen in California, it can happen here.