Hispanic voting power continues to grow, but demographic still votes at lesser rate than others

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- When voters lined up in record numbers for the 2020 election, Jesus Zamora wondered if his friends and family would be in line with him.

"Statistically speaking, here in Texas, and even in Houston, it's very difficult to get a Latino family out to vote," he said.

Zamora is a part of the Jolt Initiative, which was created to mobilize Latino voters in Texas and across the country.

"The majority of time when I'm block-walking or at different community events, registering people to vote, nine times out of 10 you'll hear from a certain family member, usually an older generation, 'I don't vote, because I feel like my vote doesn't count,'" Zamora said.

The November 2020 election showed Hispanic voters, while increasing their participation, are still voting at a lesser rate than the registered general population.

It's concerning, but there's reason to have hope, according to Jeronimo Cortina with the University of Houston's Center for Mexican American Studies.

"Millennials, and pretty soon Gen Z, are going to be incorporated," Cortina said. "We see that their participation has increased dramatically with comparison to other groups within the electorate."

He says we should be encouraged that younger Hispanics are going to the polls.

Cortina also says no single issue moves Hispanics as a voting block.

"Latinos do care about immigration, but it is not their top priority," he said. "Education, health care, access to jobs, the economy are the most important. It's the same as with any other demographic group."

Where the Hispanic population is most prevalent may make a difference in its power, according to Senior Elections Analyst Nathaniel Rakich.

"I think one tricky thing about Latino voters is that they aren't necessarily very well-represented in swing states. So, for example, a lot of Latinos live in California, but that's a state that people aren't going to be contesting very much," said Rakich. "Texas, you know lots of Latinos there, and obviously, it's kind of emerging onto the scene. But I think realistically, it's still, you know, a few election cycles away from going blue."

That is not stopping Zamora from looking to the future, even when someone believes their vote won't make a difference.

"Think of your grandkids, your nieces, your nephews, your daughters, generations to come. Give them a reason to vote," he said. "Whatever issues are happening in the community, it affects them in the long run."

For more on the Hispanic vote, follow Elissa Rivas on Facebook and Twitter.
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