El Niño is a warm current of water creating change in the climate of the Pacific Ocean, while at the same time, hefty thunderstorms occur on the equator. This may seem insignificant, it nevertheless can have big effects on the world’s climate.
Here in the U.S., there is a new El Niño-like phenomenon developing that could have big effects on the climate of upcoming elections — the emergence of our Latino population. Recently, the Pew Hispanic Center issued a report reminding us just how young our growing population is. In addition, the Pew Center reminds us that every month approximately 50,000 Latinos turn 18 and become eligible to vote — that’s nearly 600,000 new eligible Latino voters each year.
Imagine the potential impacts of this El Niño phenomenon in Latino voting. In my hometown of Austin, Texas more than 70% of Latinos are 18 years and younger. In the Austin Independent School District, Latinos represent over 60% of the student population — that’s 52,440 Latino students. The estimated number of eligible Latino voters in Austin is nearly 120,000; this climate shift in demographics means that Latinos can impact the political landscape of elections in local, state and national races and the odds are that El Niño could cast the winning vote.
Here’s another interesting tidbit that many have either overlooked or were simply unaware: in July of 1998 the State of Texas implemented a new directive requiring high school deputy registrars. Yes, that’s correct, section 14.046(a) of the Texas Election Code requires all public and private high schools to provide a deputy voter registrar and register high school students who are eligible to vote.
On December 11, 2011 each high school received a letter from the Secretary of State of Texas, reminding all high school principals of this directive. In Texas, young people may register to vote at 17 years and 10 months, but must be 18 years of age on election day to vote.
While the impact and opportunity to effect change certainly lies with los niños, instilling the cultural value and tradition of civic duty and civic responsibility that “su voto es su voz” should be all of our responsibility. There’s an old grassroots saying in the Latino community, “El éxito de nuestro futuro, es la tarea de todos” (the success of our future is the homework of all). Let’s hope that our Latino communities can indeed effect a climate change in Latino voting.
¡Adelante El Niño!
Paul M. Saldaña served as the Chief of Staff for the first elected Hispanic Mayor of Austin, Gus Garcia and co-founded Adelante Solutions, Inc. a local Latino public affairs consulting firm focused on representation tailored to the culture and values of the Latino community. In 2010, Adelante Solutions, Inc. transitioned to Brisa Communications, LLC.