Latino Voters Could Decide the 2020 Election, Starting with Nevada

2020 could very well be the year of the Hispanic voter.

November's election will be the first time that Hispanics will be the largest minority group in the electorate, according to an analysis of federal data by the Pew Research Center. A record 32 million Latinos are projected to be eligible to vote this year.

"The propensity for the Latino vote to identify and ultimately select who will be the next president of the United States is strong," Sonja Diaz, the founding executive director of UCLA's Latino Politics and Policy Initiative, told Newsweek.

"The 2018 midterm elections really signaled to the country and to both political parties the power, strength and capacity of the Latino electorate to influence victory."

In 2018, Latino turnout nationwide reached a record-high as the number of voters nearly doubled to 11.7 million from 6.8 million in the 2014 legislative elections. Of the 40 seats that flipped from Republican to Democratic control in the House of Representatives, almost half were in places where the Latino electorate was a sizable plurality or majority.

Another reason that the Latino community will be so critical in the 2020 election is that the population is so young. Between 2016 and today, roughly 5 million new Latino voters have been added into the voting bloc.

"Latinos are a very young and growing population which means that new Latino voters will age into the electorate and have a critical voice for years to come," Diaz said.

For the 2020 election, Saturday's caucuses in Nevada will be the first real test for Democratic candidates on their ability to appeal to Hispanic voters. The Latino community makes up nearly 30 percent of the swing state's population.

Recent polls have shown Bernie Sanders having an edge among Latino voters in the Silver State. A Univision survey released Tuesday found the Vermont senator had 33 percent support among respondents who identified as Latino. A Data for Progress poll found Sanders with an overwhelming 66 percent support among Hispanic likely caucusgoers surveyed.

Candidates who are likely to have a harder time with success in Nevada are Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg. While the two are coming off strong primary performances in Iowa and New Hampshire (where the populations are roughly 90 percent white), exit polls show they failed to connect with the states' African American and Hispanic voters. In the Univision poll of Latino voters in Nevada, for example, Buttigieg registered just 4 percent of their support while Klobuchar had 7 percent support.

voters line up in texas 2018 midterms
Voters line up outside the polling place at Fire Station Number 2 on Election Day November 6, 2018, in El Paso, Texas. The Latino vote could play a critical role in shaping the 2020 presidential election. Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Clarissa Martinez, the deputy vice president of policy and advocacy at the civil rights group UnidosUS, said anyone running for president has to connect with Latino voters in order to be successful because the community will be "decisive and influential" in so many states.

"Candidates need to do their job to win the support of this electorate. The reality is that candidates matter, their positions matter and meaningful outreach is essential. Nevada is a perfect example of that," Martinez told Newsweek.

Other states to watch for in 2020 in terms of the Latino vote include California, Texas, Florida, Arizona and Georgia. California and Texas, which house the largest Latino populations in the country, will both vote for their preferred Democratic candidate on Super Tuesday.

Both Diaz and Martinez warned Democratic candidates against relying on immigration policy to connect with voters. The Latino community, they said, is generally more concerned about the economy and health care this election cycle.

"Whether you are black, white, Latino or Asian, the growth of this electorate would be a welcome development because these are the kind of issues that voters care about and want to see their elected officials produce solutions on," Martinez said.