Friday, May 24, 2024

In Iowa, Growing Latino Population Prepares for Caucuses, and More


Like the rest of the United States, Iowa is in the midst of a demographic shift. While whites account for the overwhelming majority of the nation’s first caucus state, Latinos, now making up 6 percent of the Iowan population, have seen their numbers double since 2000. And as presidential candidates from both parties attempt to woo the Iowan electorate, Latinos are an ever-important bloc that all are trying to win over.

“We also want to send a message to all political parties that the Latino community is a giant that’s awakening and we hope to be more involved in the politics of this nation,” said Alex Piedras, the civic engagement chairman of the Latino Forum of Central Iowa.

But Iowa’s caucus system may prove tricky for voting newcomers to navigate, as caucuses are held in the evening and could prevent many of the Spanish-speaking voters working in the service industry from participating. Likewise, unlike a primary election, caucuses are meetings that follow a complicated slate of rules for electing a candidate, but for those unfamiliar to the caucus procedures, some are attempting to inform fellow voters to increase turnout.

“There is anti-Latino sentiment that’s being promoted. There’s a certain amount of racism going on. It’s important for our community to fight back on that,” said Joe Enriquez Henry of the League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC.

Indeed, Mr. Henry hopes turnout to increase by 1,000 percent, where only 1,000 Latinos took part in the 2012 caucuses. Mr. Henry’s sights on 10,000 this go-around may seem ambitious, but it is precisely that brand of ambition that will grant Latinos a larger voice this election season.