EARLY voting data in critical US states suggest a surge in turnout among Latino voters, in a move that could provide a major boost to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Statistics from Florida, Nevada, Georgia, North Carolina and Arizona all show a significant increase in the “sleeping giant” of Latin-American voters in the 30 million votes already counted.
Analysts predict the effect could replicate that President Obama had on the African-American community in 2008 and 2012 who turned out in record numbers to support America’s first black President. Latino voters traditionally vote Democrat and Hillary Clinton’s campaign has worked hard to ensure turnout in the increasingly tight election race.
However this time, a significant part of the Latino population appears to be mobilising against Donald Trump who has pledged to build a wall along the Mexican border and characterised citizens as criminals and rapists.
Early voting statistics from Florida show around one million of the 6.2 million early votes cast were by the Hispanic population. That’s a 75 per cent increase from 2012, according to the New York Times.
Political scientist Daniel Smith, who has been analysing voter data in the state, said “we’re headed for record turnout in Florida”.
“So far, 36 per cent of the 907,000 Hispanics who have voted in 2016 didn’t vote by any method in 2012. That’s a full 12 points higher than whites, and will likely be the key to who wins the presidency.”
Arizona has also recorded the largest increase of early voting by Latinos in any state, up 11 per cent from 2012, according to statistics from Catalist.
Nevada has also seen a rise in turnout which drove Democrats to an early lead of 72,000 that proved enough to worry Nevada’s Republican Chairman Micael McDonald who suggested polls were kept open late to allow a “certain group” to vote. Hispanics account for 28 per cent of Nevada’s population.
It prompted Donald Trump to echo his previous claims about the election being “rigged” pointing to problems at “certain key Democratic polling locations”.
“Folks, it’s a rigged system. It’s a rigged system. And we’re going to beat it,” he said, according to Politico reports.
There are more than 57 million Latinos in the US, who also make up one of the fastest growing populations, according to the Pew Research Centre. The top Latino states by population are California, Texas, Flordida, New York, Illinois and Arizona.
However Trump is also expected to tap into a similarly disaffected power base - working class whites who are tipped to turnout in larger numbers than ever before after becoming energised by his unorthodox campaign. The Republican primary has already led to an increase in turnout to 15 per cent from 11 per cent for years ago.
Restaurant worker Isabel Garcia, 36, said she would be voting this time because it was “a lot more personal than other elections.
“I have the power of my voice so I have to enforce my voice and come out and vote for the people who can’t do it,” she told the Associated Press.
Great-grandmother Enriqueta Burciaga de Lucero, 88, from Mexico will vote for the first time after living in the US for 30 years.
“I’ve seen on the television that he’s bad,” she said in Spanish about Trump in a recent interview, “and the woman is good and helps the people.”
In Florida, some Cubans are split between Republicans and Democrats, torn between Trump’s policies towards Cuba and his racist attacks.
“Donald Trump says a lot of stupid things,” said Carlos Padron, 61. “He is a racist and as a Latino I do not agree with him because he is attacking my people.”
But Padron points to the other 50-odd players at the park and says, “none of them will admit it, but most of those who are here will vote for him.”