Latinx people make up disproportionate share of NC’s voter rolls

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The percentage of Hispanic and Latinx people who are registered to vote in North Carolina is three times smaller than their share of the state’s overall population, a CBS17.com data analysis found.

Latinx people make up nearly 10 percent of the state’s population of 10.5 million but account for just 3 percent of the 7.2 million registered voters, CBS17.com found during a comparison of data from the state Board of Elections and U.S. Census Bureau.

“They know that they have to vote, they have to have their voice so politicians can hear their voices, can hear their interests, their needs,” Alirio Estevez of the Voto Latino initiative in Chatham County said.

Those proportions for other demographic groups were more aligned. White people make up 71 percent of the population and 64 percent of registered voters, and Black people — who comprise 22 percent of the population — account for 21 percent of voters.

The Pew Research Center estimates there are roughly 338,000 Latinx adults in North Carolina who are eligible to vote, but the elections board shows only two-thirds of them — 223,332 — are registered.

And of the more than 518,000 total absentee mail-in ballots that have been cast as of Wednesday, only 1.9 percent of them came from people identifying as Latinx.

That community’s percentage of registered voters has grown — it accounted for 2.4 percent of the voter registration list in the last presidential election in 2016, rising from 1.7 percent in 2012.

But it’s still disproportionate, and Estevez says there are three main reasons why.

The Latinx population in the state is comparatively young, he said. According to UNC’s Carolina Population Center, the most recent median age of Latinx people in the state was 24.8 in 2018 — far younger than the state’s overall median age of 38.9.

That leads to a lack of familiarity about the process of registering and voting, he said. 

“Their parents didn’t have the experience of voting, so they’re now learning,” he said. “This is the first time somebody in their family is going to vote, so that is a big issue.”

And the COVID-19 pandemic has made in-person outreach efforts significantly more difficult, he said.

“One of the things we know about Latino voters is that it requires outreach,” said Kerry Haynie, a political science professor at Duke University. “Someone needs to go and ask and convince them to vote. You don’t make a mobilization effort, you don’t get the turnout. And it tends to be efforts where you actually come to face-to-face contact with someone or at least can get them on the telephone and have a conversation, often in Spanish. And that will increase the vote.”

Estevez and his team of volunteers between the ages of 18 and 27 are doing just that.

They’re using Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms to reach out to potential voters to emphasize the importance of voting in this election, reminding them of deadlines and other important dates and stressing the themes that appeal to the Latinx population — education, health care, jobs and immigration.

“Even one vote is very important, so we’re trying to connect with them, talk to them,” Estevez said. “We would have liked to have reached more people before COVID-19 interrupted our plans. We keep seeing in the area, there is an enthusiasm in people, Latino voters, specifically young people want to vote because they want to protect their family, they want to fight for their future because they want to have careers.”

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