The 2016 elections are upon us, and the Latino vote will be instrumental for Democrats to claim the White House in 2016. Recent studies show that there are 27 million, or 11.95% of Latinos, registered to vote, up by 4 million since 2012. Latinos comprise 10% of the electorate.
Unfortunately, that record number has not translated into votes as Latinos in the midterms elections in 2014 and 2015 opted to stay home. I would argue that the lack of civic engagement stems from many different sources as Latinos are actually a very heterogeneous population. The national trend of low voter turn-out is one that is also reflected in New Jersey. New Jersey holds the 7th largest Latino population in the nation and Latinos have become the largest minority group in the state. With 770,000 eligible Latino voters, the potential for mobilizing Latino voters is momentous and if done effectively, it will transform New Jersey elections and politics.
The question as to what will unlock the civic engagement of Latinos has many factors but some answers can be found in finding creative ways to engage the Latino Millennial vote. According to the Pew Research center, Latino Millennials account for almost half of the 27.3 million voters nationwide projected for 2016. In New Jersey, 28% of Latino eligible voters are between the ages of 18 and 29, making them the youngest voting block of any population, younger than whites or blacks.
Latino Millennials seek the same opportunities as their peers. Therefore, young Latinos should not be thought of as a single issue voting-bloc influenced solely by immigration policy but rather concerned about a multitude of issues ranging from affordable higher education, employment, healthcare, women’s rights, housing and so on. In New Jersey, we witnessed the keen aptitude of Dreamers and the organizing efforts that led to the passage of the New Jersey Dream Act. Their campaign is merely an example of the type of policy change young Latinos are capable of driving at a state level. If we are able to garner their energy and creativity, we will be able drive positive change that benefit our communities.
The call to action is upon us. History has proven to us that if we don’t vote, we don’t count. Currently, the New Jersey Young Democrats have answered this call to action by launching the first ever Latino Caucus. I am honored to be give the responsibility to lead this effort and be part of this pivotal moment in history for Latinos. I want to work with young Latinos in NJ to drive forward a Democratic platform for empowerment, inclusion, and unity for our community and future generations to come. If you are interested in being part of this movement, please join me and together we will make sure our concerns are part of NJ Democratic policies moving forward. Juntos, together, we can get it done.
Chair of the NJYD Latino Caucus