Voter Guide for Hispanic and Latino/a Students

Voting is a critical aspect of political engagement for Hispanic and Latino/a students. Use this guide to gain more knowledge about the issues that matter.
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  • About half of eligible Latino/a American voters cast their ballots in 2020.
  • Employment equality, healthcare, and climate change are among the most important voting issues.
  • Student voters may be eligible for in-person or mail-in voting options.
  • Some recent state laws increase voting difficulty for college students.

According to 2021 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Hispanic and Latino/a community makes up 18.5% of the U.S. population, accounting for the second largest ethnic group in the country.

Dr. Louis DeSipio, professor of political science and Chicano/Latino studies at University of California, Irvine says, "There is much attention in the media as to whether the Latino vote is shifting (modestly) away from the Democrats. My take is that the evidence to support this movement is sparse; young adults will be the test. The message of the Democratic Party speaks more to young Latino adults than their parents. If the Democrats want to show their support among Latinos in 2022 and 2024, they will invest in mobilization efforts focused on Latinos, particularly young adults and the newly naturalized."

Voting provides a platform for Hispanic and Latino/a college students to express their opinions and create political change. This guide is a resource for Hispanic and Latino/a students seeking to participate in the election process.

Voting Statistics for Hispanic and Latino/a Students

Over 32 million Latinos/as are eligible to vote in the U.S, reports the Pew Research Center. However, only 53.7% of Latino/a American voters cast their ballots in the 2020 election. This trails behind the 70.9% of white voters who cast their ballots.

Two-thirds of eligible Latino/a voters live in just one of five states, greatly impacting the voting population. California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Arizona are home to the highest numbers of Latino/a voters.

The Pew Research Center reports that only about half of the U.S. Hispanic and Latino/a population of about 60 million people is eligible to vote. Some Hispanic and Latino/a adults in the U.S. are not eligible to vote because they are not citizens.

And a large percent of the U.S. Latino/a population may be too young to vote. In fact, Latinos/as are the youngest major racial or ethnic group in the country on average, with 61% age 35 or younger.

The age makeup of the Hispanic and Latino/a population in the U.S. makes it all the more important for Hispanic and Latino/a students to get involved in the political process.

The Most Important Political Issues for Hispanic and Latino/a Students

Economic and Employment Equality: Economic issues impact many areas of life for Hispanic and Latino/a individuals. DeSipio asserts, "Students from low-income backgrounds, including many Latino young adults, also face the challenge of balancing their academic work, their need to earn money to pay for their education, and helping their families get by." The racial disparities within the wage gap affect students and families, with Latino/a workers earning less than white workers overall. As a political issue, voters can consider candidates and laws that aim to reduce the wage gap and provide individuals with equitable employment opportunities.

Healthcare: The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted disparities in healthcare among Hispanics and Latinos/as around the country. Healthcare as a political issue includes addressing inadequate access to healthcare. Providing low-cost and free healthcare options for students is one way to address the growing demand for adequate healthcare.

"Latino/a students and their families also disproportionately bore the costs of the pandemic (illness, death, and work in jobs that did not allow for remote work and social distancing), so they face a particular set of needs around how the economy is to be rebuilt as the nation emerges from the pandemic and its legacies, such as high housing costs and inflation."

Environmental Issues: The impact of climate change and other environmental topics on the lives of the Hispanic and Latino/a population makes it a top priority for many. Over 80% of Hispanics in the U.S. name climate change as an important or top concern, according to a 2021 Pew Research Center poll. And over 70% of Hispanic adults note that climate change impacts their local community. Environmental issues related to trash, air and water pollution, and greenspaces influence how Hispanic and Latino/a Americans vote.

Immigration: In addition to economic and environmental issues, immigration continues to be an important concern for the Hispanic and Latino/a community. "Non-U.S. citizenship is a particular barrier for Latinos, in general" says DeSipio. "Latinos of college age are somewhat more likely to be U.S. citizens than older Latinos, but immigration and citizenship status is a barrier for many. Non-U.S. citizens can certainly volunteer in campaigns and for organizations promoting Latino participation, but cannot vote in most elections."

How Students Can Vote in Local, State, and Federal Elections

In Person:

Once you are registered to vote, voting in person may be an option in an upcoming election. In-person voting is available for local, state, and federal elections. Although requirements vary by state, you will likely need to have either permanent or temporary residency in the state to vote in person. Register to vote prior to election day to ensure you qualify for in-person voting. In some locations, voters can even cast their in-person ballots early.

By Mail:

Voting by mail is an option for many student voters. Voting by mail, also called absentee voting, allows voters who are unable to vote in person to cast their ballots. Absentee ballots should be mailed early to make sure they arrive at their destination before election day. However, most states count ballots postmarked on the day of an election. Some states allow voters to drop off their absentee ballots at designated in-person election offices.

5 Ways Students Can Get Involved in the Midterm Elections

1. Speak Out on Voter Issues: The voices of Hispanic and Lationo/a student voters are critical. Sharing your opinions, ideas, and needs opens the door for others to do the same. Uniting on and debating voter issues demonstrates to others the importance of political participation.

Share ideas on social media, in student meetings, or in discussion with family and friends. Ask peers to discuss their opinions on election topics so you can build a stronger understanding of community needs.

2. Become a Poll Worker: Election workers run our voting systems and help inform prospective voters on how to become a registered voter. Training for poll worker positions can inform you of the rules for voters in your location. This information can be shared with other students to spread awareness about how to get involved and get others involved in the voting process.

3. Register Students to Vote: A variety of programs and organizations work to increase voter registration. Students may or may not attend school in their state of residency, so understanding where and how to register to vote may be tricky. Helping students navigate these rules can improve their likelihood of voting in college. Join efforts with other students to increase voter registration on campus by holding registration drives.

4. Learn Local Voting Laws: With recent changes to voting legislation in many states, it is important to understand your local voting laws. Some state laws have increased voting difficulty for students, making it challenging to participate. Students of color are disproportionately impacted by new voting laws. Understand the state and local laws in your area and share your findings with other students. Determine how you can legally vote in upcoming elections prior to election day.

5. Contact Political Leaders: Political leaders running for election, leading election campaigns, or discussing election topics can offer insight into important political issues. Reach out to leaders to understand voting issues and share the needs of your student community. Political leaders can be reached through letter writing, social media, and in-person events like town halls or public forums. Consider which options work best for you.

Resources for Hispanic and Latino/a Student Voters

Voto Latino: This grassroots organization educates Latinx voters on democratic action. Voto Latino supports the political power of the Latinx community through nationwide voter registration drives.

Latino Community Foundation: Mobilizing the Latino/a vote is a foundational pillar for this organization, guiding individuals through voter registration and into political participation. Students can build their civic action and election awareness.

Movimiento Hispano: Hispanic Movement empowers Latinos/as to participate in democratic endeavors. Created by Latinos for Democracy, the movement helps individuals register to vote and lead community election initiatives.

Unidos US: Students can find voter registration information and election information to stay informed about current political topics. Unidos US helps engage Latino/a voters in the political process through initiatives that strengthen civic engagement.

Student Voting Guide: Students can use this voting guide to understand how to register to vote and ways to increase voter turnout. In collaboration with VoteAmerica, the guide provides important information about election topics for student voters.

Go to BestColleges Hispanic Heritage Month hub to find more stories and resources.

With Advice From:

Portrait of Louis DeSipio, Ph.D.

Louis DeSipio, Ph.D.

Louis DeSipio, Ph.D., is Professor of Political Science and Chicano/Latino Studies at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of Counting on the Latino Vote: Latinos as a New Electorate (the University Press of Virginia), U.S. Immigration in the Twenty-First Century: Making Americans, Remaking America (co-authored with Rodolfo de la Garza, Westview Press), and Uneven Roads: An Introduction to U.S. Race and Ethnic Politics (co-authored with Todd Shaw, Dianne Pinderhughes, and Toni-Michelle Travis, Sage/Congressional Quarterly Press). He received his Ph.D. in Government from the University of Texas at Austin, where he also received an MA in Latin American Studies, and his BA from Columbia University. He is past-President of the Western Political Science Association.