CENSUS: Fla. Latinos voted at a high rate
By MIKE SCHNEIDER, Associated Press
ORLANDO, May 8, 2013 (AP): Latinos in Florida voted at a much higher rate than those nationwide in last year's presidential election, and they also voted at a rate that exceeded other states with large Latino populations, according to figures released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Slightly more than 62 percent of Latino citizens in Florida voted in the 2012 presidential contest— significantly higher than the nationwide rate of 48 percent, according to the Census Bureau.
Florida's Latino turnout also surpassed that of Texas, which had a 38.8 percent rate, and that of California, which had a 48.5 percent rate. Florida has the nation's third-largest Latino population behind California and Texas.
In Florida, the Hispanic turnout was comparable to turnout by white voters and higher than turnout by black and Asian voters. Nationally, white and black voter turnout was significantly higher than Hispanic and Asian turnout.
Several factors explain the higher turnout rate for Florida Latinos, including the reliability of Cuban voters, the competitiveness of the state between Democrats and Republicans and the overall growth in the Latino population.
``First and foremost, among Cuban-Americans, turnout always has been higher,'' said Eduardo Gamarra, a professor at Florida International University who also runs a research firm, Newlink Research. ``So this is not a surprise.''
Cubans are Florida's largest Latino group, accounting for just under a third of the state's 4.3 million Latinos. Cubans in Florida have traditionally voted Republican, but exit polls suggested that President Barack Obama made inroads in capturing their votes from Republican challenger Mitt Romney last November. Exit polls showed that Obama was favored by 3 of 5 Hispanic voters in Florida.
The competitive nature of the presidential race in Florida also may explain why Latino turnout was higher than in Texas, where Republicans dominate, and in California, where Democrats have an advantage, Gamarra said.
``They were mobilized,'' Gamarra said. ``We thought it was going to be so competitive, that they weren't going to call it to the very end.''
As it happened, Florida's race wasn't called until four days later as election supervisors counted votes. But it didn't matter as Obama was able to win the Electoral College without Florida's 29 electoral votes.
Florida's Latino population also grew in the past decade from 16.8 percent to 23 percent of Florida's total population. The state currently has 19 million residents.
``Hispanics are a growing segment of the United States,'' said Thom File, a sociologist with the Census. ``That growth is translating into more voters.''
Florida's overall voter turnout in 2012 was 72 percent, according to the Florida Division of Elections. But the Census calculated overall turnout at 60.8 percent. The large difference can be explained by the fact that the Census is a survey and only counts respondents who voted in state and local elections. The Census survey also only captures voters living in the United States and doesn't include citizens living abroad or in institutions.