The Institute for Southern Studies, a progressive advocacy group based in North Carolina, has a new report
that estimates the number of Latino voters in the South will rise by over 1.6 million by 2020 as young people become eligible voters.
The Latino electorate in Arkansas is expected to grow by 28 percent over that time period, according to the report, mostly due to an estimated 16,560 youth turning 18 in the coming years.
The increase is even more striking over a longer time frame. In 2014, the Institute for Southern Studies estimates, the Latino voting-eligible population in Arkansas was around 60,000. It should grow to 135,000 by 2032, a rise of 126 percent. Among Southern states, Arkansas and Tennessee are tied for projected growth in the Latino voting population between now and 2032, the report says.
Bear in mind that those numbers are still quite small compared to Arkansas overall population (currently around 3 million residents). Census data from 2014 show Latinos comprise 7 percent of the state's population but 17.4 percent of the population of the U.S. as a whole.
Over the next two decades, the number of eligible Latino voters in the region will increase dramatically as today’s Latino youth — almost all of whom are U.S. citizens — turn 18 and become eligible to vote. By 2020, over 1.6 million Latino youth in the South will age into the electorate. By 2024, if current trends hold, Southern states are projected to gain 3 million new Latino voters.
The aging-in of young Latino voters living in the South presents a critical opportunity to expand Latinos’ electoral clout, which has not kept pace with the community’s growing numbers due to the citizenship status and young age of many Latinos in the region. With numbers trending towards growing electoral power for Latinos, the question becomes whether these new voters will be engaged and motivated enough to cast ballots in the South’s future elections.
Also: The makeup of the Latino demographic varies from Southern state to Southern state. In Arkansas and Tennessee, a smaller percentage of Latino residents are citizens than in some other places.
While across the region less than half of Latinos have a voice at the ballot box, the share of Latinos who are eligible to vote is even smaller in many Southern states. As shown below, in North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas and Georgia, fewer than one in three Latino residents are eligible to vote.