Texas GOP and Democrats expect Latino voting to be key

FILE - Voting sign (KXAN File Photo)
FILE - Voting sign (KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A record 15 million people are now registered to vote in Texas and a young and growing voting block could play a big role in the November election. The National Council of La Raza led a roundtable discussion Thursday at East Austin College Prep with political leaders and the Austin Latino community.

Sixty percent of Latinos polled did not have a major political party contact them asking for their vote. “I think there are missed opportunities that we’re seeing made by both political parties. On the one hand it feels like parties are either ignoring us or taking us for granted,” said Janet Murguía NCLR President.

Democrats and Republicans agree on two things. The first is Texas Latinos are different from Latinos nationwide; they have higher numbers of Catholics and social conservatives. The second thing they agree on, Latinos are growing in numbers.

We dug into the latest census data numbers from 2014 and found that 18 percent of the voting age population in Williamson County is Hispanic. That goes up to 22 percent in Travis County. That goes up even more in Hays county, at 29 percent.

“To just talk to them because a lot of them feel that their voices aren’t heard,” said Darcy Caballero, the volunteer coordinator for Travis County Democrats. She tells KXAN the immigration issue is no longer their key message. In 2016, they want to talk education and healthcare. “We start to see them as a little multi-dimensional instead of one issue voters.”

“Voters haven’t typically seen intentional outreach by the party [the GOP] and we’re doing a lot more of that,” said chair of the Travis County Republican Party James Dickey. He says the big change since 2012 is they recognize the need for outreach. This year they’ve recruited Latino candidates and tried to talk about the issues they care about.

“It’s the old saying that people don’t care what you know until they know that you care,” said Dickey.

This year, voter turnout is expected to break records, and we’ll soon see how many Latinos will be among them. Texas is home to 19 percent of the country’s Latino Population. 10.2 million Hispanics live in Texas. Excluding non-citizens and those under 18, about 5 million Texas Hispanics will be eligible to vote in this year’s presidential election.

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