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If Latinos want a bigger say in America’s future, they must vote — in record numbers

A record 32 million Latinos are estimated to be eligible to vote in this fall’s elections, up from 27 million in 2016.

People wait in line to early vote in downtown Chicago
Hundreds of people wait in line to early vote at the Loop Super Site, 191 N. Clark St., Thursday morning, Oct. 1, 2020, in Chicago.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times

This fall’s election marks the first time Latinos are the largest racial and ethnic minority group in the American electorate, accounting for more than 13% of all eligible voters and exceeding the number of Black eligible voters for the first time.

A record 32 million Latinos are projected to be eligible to vote, up from 27.3 million in 2016, according to the Pew Research Center. In Illinois, 11.6% of the eligible voter population is Latino — that is 1,053,000 out of a total 9,059,000.

“There is incredible power in having a large population, but it can only be flexed if you vote,” Latino Leadership Council Chair Juan Morado Jr. told the Sun-Times. “We can shift the balance of power in all levels of government, but it’s only going to be possible if we register and vote.”

An August poll from Latino Vote, the nation’s largest Latino voter registration organization, showed that less than 60% of Latino voters plan to vote, and another 12% still are undecided.

Voto Latino registered a record 1,057,090 Latino voters to-date, the most ever in its history. And although the Latino community “has been ignored by the political establishment,” President and CEO of Voto Latino María Teresa Kumar said their results reflect the Latino community’s deep desire to participate in this election.

In the weeks leading up to the Nov. 3 presidential election, neither Latinos nor the issues affecting them have been discussed by either nominee at debates and town halls.

It really shouldn’t be hard for candidates to loop in Latinos when discussing the issues that affect all Americans, especially during a pandemic. It’s imperative to appreciate that Latinos are not single-issue voters focused solely on immigration.

A majority of Latino registered voters say the economy, health care and the COVID-19 outbreak are very important to their vote in this presidential election, according to the Pew Research Center.

While Latinos make up 18% of the U.S. population, they account for 28.3% of COVID-19 cases and 16.4% of deaths, UnidosUS reported. Latinos account for 38.2% of cases and 36.7% of deaths among children age 5 to 17.

Latino women also have experienced a steep rise in their unemployment rate, which jumped from 5.5% to 20.5% between February and April 2020.

The surest way for Latinos to be better heard and wield more power in Washington and Springfield is for every Latino eligible voter — all 32 million strong — to head to the ballot box.

Latinos are a growing and welcome part of our nation’s future. But to have a real say in that future, they must vote.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.