Changes: Political strength depends on participation of voters

As Hispanic Heritage Month progresses, reports are emerging that Hispanics already might have become Texas’ largest demographic group. The Census Bureau’s most recent American Community Survey, released earlier this year, shows that Hispanics now comprise 40.2% of the state’s population, while Whites’ numbers are 39.4%.

The inevitability of the shift has been known for years; the growth in the Hispanic population, through both childbirth and immigration — both from Latin countries and other U.S. states — has outpaced the increase in non-Hispanic Whites. However, this is the first time the official Census count does not list White Texans as the state’s most numerous population class.

Some activists have predicted that the milestone could lead to a political power shift. That remains to be seen, and if such a shift occurs it isn’t likely to be quick. After all, numbers don’t always equal strength — they must be utilized in order to achieve power.

Historically, Hispanic voter turnout has lagged behind that of other demographic groups.

Actually, Texas has long been a majority minority state. Since 2004, the largest demographic group, non-Hispanic Whites, has been outnumbered by total of all the smaller groups combined. The fact that the change hasn’t led to a political change at the state level indicates both that assumptions of homogeneity among minority groups is exaggerated, and participation remains greatest among non-Hispanic Whites.

It has long been commonly assumed that Hispanics, who comprise the large majority of Rio GrandeValley residents, tend to vote Democrat. Recent election results, however, suggest otherwise.

Voting preferences depend on many things, including the quality of candidates and positions they represent. Economic changes also are a factor; the growth of Republican votes among Hispanics, in South Texas might reflect the growing affluence among Valley residents. An old saying suggest that people who have more to gain have liberal views, while those who have more to lose tend to be more conservative.

To their credit, Hispanics are voting in greater numbers; voter turnout in South Texas reportedly has increased by 25% since 2020. Still, it remains several percentage points below the rest of the state, varying with regard to statewide and local races.

Even though Hispanics are 40% of the state’s population, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials predicts that Latino voter turnout in November will be about 21.2%; that’s comparable to 2018 numbers and reflects an increase, but pales in comparison to non-Hispanic Whites, who still cast up to 70% of the popular vote.

Most people have heard the old caveat that those who don’t vote have no authority to complain. With a virtual split between liberal and conservative members of Congress, and several Valley seats up for grabs, every vote counts. For every voter, of every demographic group, the strength of our voices depends on the strength of our votes.

The last day to register to vote for the November general election is Oct. 11. Those eligible to vote should make sure that they can, and plan to casting their ballots in the coming weeks.