Latino leaders rally as a show of political force.
Beginning this year, the California Department of Motor Vehicles began automatically registering driver’s license and ID applicants who are eligible to vote.
Democrats argued that the program would improve voter turnout in elections — with the not-so-subtle assumption that it would boost their own party’s rolls and help organizers shift resources from registration to participation drives.
To kick start those efforts, progressive Latino leaders from across Southern California and their supporters gathered Thursday night in Colton for a discussion about their national potential in 2016, as well as a debate over which Democratic presidential candidate deserves support.
Latinos — though the definition is broad — represent the largest demographic in California, but consistently punch below their weight in elections, even presidential ones. Researchers at Political Data, a private company based in Norwalk, Calif., concluded that only 28 percent of eligible Latino voters cast a ballot in the 2014 midterm, compared to almost 50 percent of whites.
Thursday’s summit, however, demonstrated that Latino politicians have made serious inroads on almost every level of government in the region, from school boards to Congress. Riverside County was home to 23 self-identified Latino officials in January 2000, according to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. That number had more than doubled — to 57 — by January 2015.