Following historic Latinx voter numbers, experts say Texas could be 'fully competitive' in 2020
Latinx voter turnout surged nearly 175 percent in the 2018 midterm election compared to 2014, top Democrats said, voting “for Democrats by a margin of nearly three to one.” Those Latinx voters fueled historic victories in battleground districts and the victories of Latinx candidates themselves, trusted polling firm Latino Decisions continued. “An NBC News exit poll found one in four Latino voters said they cast a midterm ballot for the first time this year.”
In Texas, Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia made history as the first Latinas to, finally, represent the state in the U.S. Congress. While Latino Decisions noted that final numbers are still pending, the group said that “overall turnout surged in Texas from 2014 to 2018 in heavily Latino counties, especially those along the border,” including a nearly 170 percent increase in Beto O’Rourke’s home area of El Paso County.
While O’Rourke ultimately lost to Ted Cruz (booooo!), voters cut his win from a 12 point victory in 2012 to less than three points in 2018. “Julian Castro is right,” tweeted Latino Victory Fund. “We're going to flip Texas.” It’s not far-fetched, Indiana University’s Bernard Fraga told The Dallas Morning News. “I don’t think it’s guaranteed, but a continued, all-hands-on-deck effort to reach young, Latino voters could make Texas fully competitive.” As Latino Victory Fund head Cristobal Alex also noted shortly before the election, Democrats have to keep making critical investments.
“A recent Latino Decisions poll found more than 84% of Latinos say they are certain to or probably will vote in the 2018 midterm elections,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, the same poll also found that fewer than half of Latinos surveyed reported being contacted by a candidate.” But when Latinx voters are engaged by candidates and the party, the results can be earth-shattering, as groups and activists working hard on the ground to reach Latinx voters, in particular young voters, showed this time around.
“In Dallas County, where about 40 percent of the population is Hispanic, 300,000 more people voted in this election than in 2014. The heavier turnout helped lift several Latinos to political victories.” Hidalgo County saw a 105 percent increase. Cameron County saw a 115 percent surge. Those who couldn’t vote, like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, canvassed tirelessly during weekends. "A lot of you have the opportunity to go out and make change happen,” Hector Angeles said, “so it is up to you, and everyone who is listening, to go out and be the voice for people who don't have one.”
When 2 million Latinx Texans will turn 18 over the next decade, Texas can be flipped. “There has to be real investments in non-presidential years,” said Cristina Tzintzun of Jolt Initiative, which led a historic survey of young Latinx voters in the state. “Democrats can’t just depend on [Latinos] being disgusted by rhetoric or a single candidate. There needs to be a solid investment in outreach efforts—especially for young people.”