Voter Turnout Among Latinos in the State of Washington

Austin Rainwater
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This paper focuses on voter registration and turnout among Latinos in Washington State as well as voter mobilization for Latinos. The question guiding the research is this: Among Latinos in Washington State, Yakima, and Walla Walla, who is voting, how, and why? The research has focused on gathering data on the population of the United States, Washington State, Walla Walla County, and Yakima County. The research has also examined literature regarding voting behavior, turnout, and mobilization for Latinos.

Methods: For the data, the U.S. Census, Walla Walla County Courthouse voting records, and Yakima County Courthouse voting records were relied on heavily. For literature research, Latino advocacy organizations, political abstracts, and newspaper articles were relied on.

Findings:

  • Latinos are the largest racial minority group living in the United States and also highly under-represented, politically. Only 18.36 % of all Hispanics living in the United States voted in 2004, whereas 42.82% of the total population living in the United States voted in 2004.
  • Nearly 10% of Washington State’s population is Latino. In the case studies, it was found that although Walla Walla County Latinos made up 12% of the total population, Latino only made up 4% of the voting population in 2004. Similarly, although Yakima County Latinos made up 29% of the total population, Latinos made up only 11% of the total voting population.
  • Low turnout rates among Latinos are a result of many factors, among which are citizenship, education, income, age, and language barriers.
  • There is strong evidence indicating that Latinos are highly receptive to mobilization efforts when they are specifically targeted. Further, asking someone to vote, even if they are among the least likely to do so, has significant positive effects on their likelihood of turning out on Election Day.

Recommendations: A better process for working immigrants to become citizens is key to the civic health of the Latino community in Washington and the United States. The Voting Rights Act continues to provide vital areas of protection for Latinos and avenues to address voting discrimination. If the VRA is not extended in 2007, it would be a great loss to Latinos, as well as a political loss for those that did not vote to renew it.

Community Partners: Kathy Fisher and Delia P. Chavez of the Yakima County Auditor’s office took a great deal of time in helping us with our project and providing us with the information we needed.

 

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