Editors note: This guest blog is by Raquel Donoso, Executive Director of the Latino Community Foundation, a supporting organization of The San Francisco Foundation. Join LCF on December 6, 2012 for Election Recap: Latino Influence 2012, presented by CommunityConversaciones, register here.
This November Latinos went out to vote in record numbers. Latinos represented 10 percent of the U.S. voting electorate, double what it was in 1996. The numbers rose to more than 12 million, up from 11.4 million Latinos that voted in the last election.
What the country saw this month is that the United States electorate is beginning to mirror the immense diversity of the country-not just with regards to race/ethnicity but also in terms of age, gender, and sexual orientation. The United States is at an exciting and critical time. By 2050, the Hispanic population is expected to nearly double, accounting for as much as 29 percent of the total population. Each month, 50,000 Latinos turn 18 and are eligible to vote.
What does this mean moving forward? What does it mean for California?
California has already begun to experience the national demographic shifts. For the past decade Latinos, because of the growing numbers, have become critical contributors to winning margins of victory.
Latinos will continue to make an important impact in the voting booth. The question then becomes how will this translate into policy changes to improve economic and education outcomes for Latino families in this state?
After the election there have been countless articles and discussions about what the President will do on immigration reform given that it is an important issue for Latino voters.
Yes, it is an important issue for the Latino community and one that rightfully should, and I predict will, be an important element of President Obama’s second term.
Yet, in every poll and interview done with Latino residents immigration is not the only issue discussed. The Latino vote cannot be distilled into one issue. Latino voters care about education, the economy, health care, the deficit, and the gap between rich and poor.
In California we need to focus on rebuilding our public education system to once again be the envy of the nation, to ensuring all our children have access to 21st century learning tools, to increasing economic security for working families that make too little to attain the American Dream.
It is possible.
We are not called upon to be civically engaged every two or four years. Every day LCF works with organizations that are transforming communities and empowering Latino parents and families to speak up, to make their voices heard. In Sacramento, on local school boards, elected officials need to hear from their constituents – they need to know what the community wants and to be held accountable for their actions.
This is the vision for the future of California, what is possible when people come together for the good of communities to shape their future.
In 2013, LCF will be hosting its first statewide conference in Sacramento. After decades of investing in communities it is time for us all to come together – community leaders, elected and appointed officials, the business community, and philanthropists – and forge a path to prosperity in this state. Identify the issues where a critical mass can have an impact, raise up the stories and voices of those struggling, and invest in the future of California. Please stay tuned for more information on our upcoming conference.