Turning Texas Blue: How Democrats from the Lone Star State Depend on the Hispanic Vote
Updated: Jun 2, 2020
For any political whiz who has a particular interest in US midterm elections, the Senate race in Texas is the main focus. Being a predominantly conservative state, few would have guessed that a Democrat even stood a chance against a Republican challenger. Nonetheless, on November 6th, the Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke will face off against incumbent Ted Cruz, the Republican candidate, for one of Texas’ Senate seats. Surprisingly, the polls have Ted Cruz in a single-digit lead against O’Rourke. In 2018, even being in second place by single digits is great news for Senate Democrats who want to have a majority come 2019. However, they still need to garner more votes to cross the finish line and actually win.
These crucial votes will have to come from Hispanic voters, who represent roughly 40% of Texas’ population. They represent 11,1 million votes and Beto O’Rourke desperately needs their participation in order to put a nail in Ted Cruz’s political coffin. So, the question becomes: Will Hispanic Texans vote for Beto O’Rourke on November 6th?
“He visitado los 254 condados en Texas porque quiero representar a cada persona en nuestro estado" = said Beto O’Rourke in his first Spanish campaign ad of 2018, in an effort to win over the Hispanic voter base. “I want to represent everyone in our state”; but in order to do that, a candidate must appeal to voters by also appealing to their wants and needs. The Hispanic population in Texas is known to be a low-turnout voter base, meaning that most of them do not vote on election day. According to a Pew Research Center study, “about 41% of Texas Latinos who are eligible to vote are millennials ages 18 to 33”. However, “(…) young Latinos continue to fail to show up at the polls in great numbers. Just 43% of the youngest Latino millennials – those in the 18-29 age group – registered in 2016 and less than a third voted” showed an analysis made by the University of Southern California. In other words, appealing to this community and making it go out to vote on election day will prove to be a challenge for the Democratic candidate.
When examining the numbers, three main factors differentiate Texas’ Hispanic population from its white population. These factors are their economic status, poverty rates and lack of health insurance. A research conducted by Pew Research Center in 2014 proclaims that the median income of Hispanics in the Lone Star State is around $22,000, while whites bring in around $40,000. This could explain the difference in poverty rates: 34% of Hispanics 17 and younger live in poverty whereas only 10% of whites 17 and younger are in a similar situation. This major economic divide is a factor that, in normal conditions, makes the lesser-earning group vote for the Democratic party. Another factor that makes people vote blue in normal conditions is health insurance; while Republicans are against it, Democrats vehemently defend it. And this voter base needs it. According to the same Pew Research Center study, a whooping 31% of Hispanics in Texas are uninsured (compared to 11% for whites). That represents 3,4 million uninsured Latinos who would technically want Democrats to win, in order for them to protect health insurance programs.
These signs point to the Latino electorate wanting Democrats in office; and when they’ve actually gone out to cast their ballots in the past, that is the party they voted for. In fact, 65% of Latino voters cast their vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016, compared to a whimsy 29% for Donald Trump. Turnout numbers for Hispanics in US elections are very poor; with turnout rates of 40% in 2016 , Democrats can hardly count on their vote. In fact, the United States Elections Project studied turnout rates among different ethnic groups and found that both whites and African-Americans have better turnout rates than the Hispanic population. This problem has haunted Democrats for decades, because the Hispanic vote could go a long way to giving their party more power and influence in D.C. However, it is impossible to make an entire community go out of their way to go vote, so Democrats will have to cross their fingers and hope for the best.
In conclusion, two outcomes are possible after November 6th’s election; either Beto O’Rourke wins, or Ted Cruz does. If the Hispanic population vote has an atypical high voter turnout in the state of Texas, Democrats in the Senate will probably reap the rewards and gain a seat. Polls have O’Rourke at a 20% chance of winning which, in normal political races, would not be considered an important chance. However, readers should keep in mind that Donald Trump also had a 20% chance of winning the presidency according to the same polls on election day in 2016; a fact that should scare Ted Cruz given that Trump won his election with the same numbers his opponent currently has.