Thursday, February 06, 2020

Latino Voters in Mecklenburg County

There is a local news story about how 76% of Latinos in Mecklenburg County (where Charlotte is) are not registered to vote. That's not high.

We have to remember that many are not eligible in the first place. This is consistent with other relatively new destination states in the south (the percentage of eligible voters in places like Maine is high, but I think the absolute number is low). The low percentage reflects three main issues: newer destinations have more non-citizens, lower incomes, and more young people, who are either too young to register or who--like all young people--are less likely to register than older people.

The Mecklenburg County trend has been slow and steady increase. Nothing dramatic, but clear movement. Right now, according to the Board of Elections about 4.7% of all county voters are Latino. I've blogged about this a number of times in the past, and this number just keeps going up:

June 2018: 4.2%
November 2016: 3.8%
November 2011: 2.2%

In 2004, the percentage was 0.2%. Two years ago there was a jump in participation, which is still low but growing.

So what do we make of this? It took many years for Latinos to become politically powerful in western states, and we should not expect anything different here. There was so much hoopla about the "sleeping giant" that in my opinion too many people had unrealistic expectations about Latino voters swinging presidential elections in North Carolina. It takes consistent and painstaking on-the-ground work by activists to get people aware and registered.

But each election, the influence grows, and when the margin of victory is slim, that growth matters all the more. Incidentally, currently 27% of our local (and very large) public school system is Latino. Charlotte is changing.

Update (2/7/20)

My dad read this and went into the American Community Survey to dig a little more and the results tell a rather different story.

Hispanics are 12.9% of the total county population
Hispanics are 10.8% of the 18+ population
Hispanics are 5.2% of the 18+ citizen population—those who could be voters

What this means is that Latinos constitute 5.2% of the total voting-eligible population, and 4.7% of all registered voters. In short, they are close to being proportional, not to the total population but to those can vote.


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