For those who dedicate their time to driving the Latino vote in Georgia, any opportunity is a good one to speak about the impact of the Hispanic community at the polls. Little by little, their efforts are paying off.
According to recently released statistics from the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, in 2016 the number of registered Hispanic voters reached 244,190, representing 3.66 percent of the state electorate.
The report, which included individuals who identify as Latino both in the electoral registry as well as by last name, revealed that an additional 60,224 Latinos became registered voters between the years 2012 and 2016.
“Two areas where the Latino vote is strong are Gwinnett County and Cobb County. Gwinnett is the number one county, in terms of the quantity of Latino voters, and it has grown tremendously,” explained Jerry González, executive director of GALEO.
According to the report, 44,567 Latinos were registered to vote in Gwinnett County in 2016, of which 57 percent voted in the presidential election in November.
Gwinnett County has a total of 431,727 registered voters, and more than 10 percent of those individuals are Latinos, according to statistics from the Georgia Secretary of State.
In that county, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton led the November elections by 19,164 votes.
For González, GALEO’s efforts during the last few years to raise awareness and educate the Latino community face to face about the importance of voting have been fruitful. Additionally, the election of Barack Obama in 2008, as well as the anti-immigrant rhetoric of President Donald Trump, have driven Latino voters to the polls, said González.
“Georgia has been a hostile state toward immigrants for a long time, so Latinos are more likely to get involved in the election process, in order to change that rhetoric,” he said.
In spite of the increase in the amount of registered Latino voters in 2016, however, civic participation remained almost the same compared with 2008. For example, in Gwinnett County in 2008, 55 percent of registered Latinos exercised their right to vote, and in 2016, 57 percent of the same population did so.
González believes that this is due in part to complications in the voting process, by which new citizens have to prove their status in order to register. As well, he points to a certain level of discouragement felt by Latino voters in 2012, due to the amount of deportations ordered by President Obama.
“I think that in 2008 Latinos were very involved with Obama’s campaign, and in 2012, because of the amount of deportations, there was a decrease in the Latino vote. In 2016, we know that the issue of immigration was central to Trump’s campaign, and that was the reason that motivated many Latinos to get out and vote,” said González.
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