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By W. Gardner Selby October 7, 2011

Pundit says 50,000 Hispanic citizens turn 18 and become eligible to vote every month

In an opinion column, California-based pundit Ruben Navarrette Jr. said Republicans risk offending Latino citizens with broadsides about immigrants.

"Every month, another 50,000 U.S.-born Hispanics turn 18 and become eligible to vote," Navarrette said in his column posted online Sept. 28, 2011, and published in the next day’s Austin American-Statesman. "The GOP had better hope these folks have short memories and don't hold grudges toward those who tried to turn their parents into scapegoats."

Setting aside Navarrette’s judgment, we wondered about his figure.

By email, the columnist said the 50,000-a-month count was researched by the Pew Hispanic Center, a Washington group that says it seeks to improve understanding of the U.S. Hispanic population and to chronicle Latinos' growing impact on the nation. Navarrette pointed out a September 2008 news article in the Arizona Republic quoting Mark Hugo Lopez, the center’s associate director, saying: "About 50,000 Latinos a month turn 18 (in the United States) and are eligible to vote for the first time."

In an interview, Lopez told us he reached the 50,000 count by dividing by 12 the number of U.S.-born Hispanics recorded as turning 18 in the 2009 American Community Survey undertaken by the U.S. Census Bureau. He forwarded his table indicating that in 2009, 659,000 U.S.-born Hispanics turned 18, or nearly 55,000 a month. From 2000 through 2009, Lopez calculated, an average of 500,500 U.S.-born Hispanics annually turned 18, or nearly 42,000 a month over the 10 years.

And what of other population groups?

According to the center’s table, some 2.7 million U.S.-born non-Hispanic whites turned 18 in 2009, for a pace of 225,000 a month, and 755,000 U.S.-born non-Hispanic blacks turned 18, nearly 63,000 a month. Compared to Hispanics that year, then, more blacks and four times as many white citizens turned 18 every month. And over the 10 years, the chart indicates, an average of nearly 214,000 whites and nearly 51,000 blacks turned 18 every month.

In an interview, Lopez said he put the 50,000-a-month figure in a January 2011 center report on Latinos and congressional reapportionment. The report says that while Hispanics accounted for about 51 percent of the nation’s population growth from 2000 through 2009, not all of that growth translated to immediate electoral strength. To date, Latinos often do not vote in numbers reflecting their share of the population.

Then again, the Pew report says, many Latinos are too young to vote or are not U.S. citizens.

"Among the nation’s 48.4 million Hispanics in 2009, a record 20.1 million are eligible to vote," the report says. "Yet an even greater number are not eligible to vote. Some 15.5 million Hispanics are U.S. citizens 17 years of age or younger and 12.8 million of all ages are not U.S. citizens.

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Even so, the number of the Latinos eligible to vote continues to grow. Since 2000, nearly 6 million more Latinos have become eligible to vote. The bulk of this growth was attributable to the 5 million U.S.-born Latino youths nationwide who turned 18 during this past decade. That translates into an additional half-million U.S.-born Latinos coming of age each year — a pattern that is certain to persist, and grow, in the coming decades."

The Pew Hispanic Center elaborated on the bulge in U.S.-born Latinos under 18 in an April 2011 report stating that Latino electoral participation reached a national high in 2010, though Latinos still do not turn out in numbers equal to their share of the U.S. population. In 2010, the report says, 16.3 percent of the nation's population was Latino, but only 10.1 percent of eligible voters and fewer than 7 percent of voters were Latino.

"This gap is driven by two demographic factors — youth and non-citizenship," the report says. "More than one third of Latinos (34.9 percent) are younger than the voting age of 18. And an additional 22.4 percent are of voting age, but are not U.S. citizens. As a result, the share of the Latino population eligible to vote is smaller than it is among any other group. Just 42.7 percent of the nation's Latino population is eligible to vote, while more than three-in-four (77.7 percent) of whites, two-thirds of blacks (67.2 percent) and more than half of Asians (52.8 percent) are eligible to vote."

So, how does Navarrette’s claim stand? The 50,000-a-month count is about right. Regardless, it’s a tad misleading to showcase that figure for Latino Americans when both the number of black and Anglo citizens reaching voting age is, for now, even greater. We rate the statement Mostly True.

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Pundit says 50,000 Hispanic citizens turn 18 and become eligible to vote every month

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