U.S. Election 2020: Hispanic Lags in Political Participation


MONROVIA – As Americans gear up to go the poll on November 3 to elect a new President and a third of the Senators, experts are projecting that more Hispanics might not go to the polls, despite constituting a larger number of America’s population.

Report by Massa Kanneh, [email protected], Contributing Writer

Speaking via a Zoom briefing organized by the International Press Center (IFC), Bradley Jones, Ph.D., Research Associate at Pew Research Center, provided statistical reports that explained how many of this population has risen and why they may not hugely participate in the 2020 election.

Specified in the briefing provided by Dr. Jones, more than one-half of the U.S. population growth is coming from the Latino community.  The Latino population has grown more than 50% since 2000, compared to 1% growth in the White population. In 2008, there were 19.5 million adult Latinos who were eligible to vote. In 2020, there are 32.0 million who are eligible to vote. 

Dr. Jones lamented that although Latino population growth is very strong, the actual political participation by this community lags far behind.

“Only about one-half of the nation’s 60 million Latinos are eligible to vote, and among them only about 60% are actually registered to vote, compared to 70% of Blacks, and 74% of Whites. Latinos comprise about 18% of the U.S. population, yet they make up merely 13.3 % of the electorate. In the latest presidential election cycle (2016), Latinos comprised 11.9% of the U.S. electorate,” he said.

The fact that political participation by Latinos lags substantially behind their actual percentage of the population is explained by several factors which include:

First, the Latino population is relatively young, with about one-third less than 30 years of age. This fact suggests that in the next generation, there may be an explosion of Latino political participation in the U.S. 

Second, many first-generation immigrants have not attained citizenship and thus voter eligibility. For many of those who have achieved citizenship, the custom of political participation in the U.S. does not soon take hold. Today, about 70% of native-born citizens in the U.S. are registered to vote, whereas for naturalized citizens that number drops to merely 54%. He said

Third, many Latinos comprise a substantial portion of the economic underclass, the group least likely to participate politically, regardless of race and ethnicity.

Electoral College 

In the United States election, the popular votes do not guarantee an individual can win the presidency without the aid of the Electoral College.

Expert have said there is little chance of switching to a popular vote system and abandoning the Electoral College. To change to popular vote would require an amendment to the federal Constitution. And amending the Constitution requires not only the consent of Congress, but also 3/4 of the States. 

“That would mean at least 38 of 50 states have to agree. The smaller population states benefit from the existence of an Electoral College because it inflates their influence significantly. Small states will not agree to eliminate the Electoral College in favor of national popular vote,” he said.

During the IPC Zoom briefing, Dr. Jones revealed the Electoral College was the result of a compromise at the Constitutional Convention of 1789 at which delegates debated various means for choosing a president.

Dr. Jones: “It was not the most popular idea, but it was a compromise that the delegates could agree upon. It reflected the need to gain the consent of the smaller states for the proposed Constitution, as the smaller states feared that a popular vote system would give all of the national power to the larger states”.

“Since the proposed Constitution had to be ratified by the states, this was a necessary move. Also, some of the delegates wanted some protection against the possibility that a majority of the population would be persuaded to support a demagogue or unqualified person, so the electors initially had authority to go against the popular vote if they thought it was in the national interest to do so.”

Today, most states make it a crime for an elector to go against the popular vote in a state, so the role of the elector has become mostly just symbolic, confirming the popular vote outcome of his or her state.

Swing States

Swing States are those that are highly competitive for both parties, Republican and Democrat.

Some of the swing states include: Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Florida, Arizona, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Ohio, and one congressional district in Nebraska (Nebraska and Main split their electors by congressional district). Winner-take-all system in 48 of 50 states. The candidate who wins the popular vote of a state takes 100% of the electors from that state. The margin of victory in each state therefore does not matter.

 States are assigned a number of electors based on population size, so that larger population states receive more electors. The candidate who wins a majority of the electors – at least 270 out of 538 – becomes the President.

Two states split their electors by congressional district – Maine and Nebraska. One elector assigned to the candidate who wins the popular vote within the territory of a House of Representatives district. The statewide vote winner gets a bonus of two electors. Only two states have this unusual system.

The District of Columbia is treated like it is a state (although it is not) for purposes of the Electoral College, and it received three electors.