By Samantha Salomon and Eric Schmid
Twelve percent of registered New York voters are Latino, and are poised to make a large impact down ballot in this year’s election on Long Island, according to data from Make the Road Action released in October.
The study suggests there is now a critical mass of Latino voters who can swing the results of local Long Island elections.
“Latino voters in New York and Long Island are a growing force,” Rosanna Perotti, a political science professor at Hofstra said.
Hispanics make up almost 17.6 percent of Long Island’s population, which is nearly 504,000 people, according to 2015 data from Newsday. Turnout from Hispanic voters in the 2012 election was 48 percent.
“If Latino turnout could be increased by even 5 percent in the local races, it could make a difference,” Perotti said.
That difference is driven by issues in the election, like immigration.
“What’s going to happen in terms of immigration reform, in terms of programs that are in place right now?” Gabriela Castillo, Coordinator of the Long Island Civic Engagement Table (LICET) said. “There are so many key issues that are at stake for our nation as a whole that always have a different impact in communities of color.”
Castillo is one of the people helping to ensure Latinos make a statement on election day.
LICET has been engaging with Latinos in get out the vote efforts since the summer months up to the October deadline to build turnout for the November election. “Historically, a lot of folks in communities of color have not had the numbers,” she explained. “In the Latino community there haven’t been large turnout numbers when it comes to elections that are not tied into any major national [one].”
But this year’s inflammatory and divisive national election is driving some turn out. “I can’t risk this [the election],” Alvaro Quintanilla, a Salvadoran voter said. “My primary motivation with the whole national election is to defeat [Donald Trump].”
For many local campaigns on Long Island, Donald Trump is a major topic of contention for Latino voters.
“In District 1, incumbent Lee Zeldin has defended Trump’s incendiary comments; the race between him and Anna Throne-Holst is likely to be close,” Perotti said. “So here, again, increased Latino turnout could be definitive.” She added that Peter King, the republican incumbent in District 2, will face pressure from Latino communities even if he wins his reelection bid.
The challenge for local campaigns turns into maintaining their own platforms while tapping into the national rhetoric. “Our campaign remains focused on highlighting Anna’s many strengths over Zeldin’s hardline agenda.” Jack Faherty, Communications Director for Anna Throne-Holst for Congress said. “Part of this stark contrast includes Zeldin’s continued support of Donald Trump.”
The critical time in an election falls just before the polling day. This is no different for Latino voters. “You want as many people in making phone calls and knocking on doors as you can,” Liz Sutton, Field Organizer of Steve Bellone’s (D) 2015 reelection campaign, said. “You want to hit as many people as you can in those three days before election day.”
Voting in this election, for many, captures more than just a battle between two candidates. “I think what so many have fought for in the past decade is now back at the forefront of national conversation,” Castillo said. “I think that this election will determine a lot of those issues that have been reignited.”
With the election only six days away, time is running out for voters and organizations to engage and vote.