Latinos attended Iowa's caucuses in record numbers, group says

The nation's growing Latino electorate long has been described as a “sleeping giant,” with lots of potential to impact elections, but a bad track record of turning out to vote.

In Iowa this week, it appears the giant woke up. 

As part of a record turnout of voters in Iowa's presidential caucuses Monday, more Latinos voted than ever before.

That's according to an analysis of exit polls by the League of United Latin American Citizens, a Latino organization that launched a voter registration drive in Iowa last summer in response to Donald Trump's disparaging remarks about immigrants and Mexicans.

The group estimates that 10,500 to 13,000 Latinos attended the caucuses, based on exit poll data indicating Latinos made up about 4% of Democratic caucusgoers and 2% of Republicans.

By comparison, only around 1,000 Latinos voted in the 2012 caucuses, and 2,500 in 2008.

The analysis should be taken with a grain of salt. Exit polls have a margin of error, and the potential margin grows substantially when analyzing a subset of the data, such as the Latino vote.

Moreover, the turnout is still tiny. Iowa has an estimated 169,000 Latinos, less than 6% of the state population.

Official turnout data from the caucuses won't be available until Iowa's Democratic and Republican parties release lists of those who voted. 

Latino advocacy groups had predicted a record turnout in response to successful voter registration and caucus education drives, and widespread concern about some of the Republican presidential candidates' comments.

LULAC, a nonpartisan Latino advocacy group, launched its voter registration drive in July after Trump vowed to build a wall on the southwest border and referred to Mexicans as rapists and drug dealers.

The organization convinced 10,000 people to sign pledge cards saying they would vote, said Joe Enriquez Henry, who led the registration campaign. 

Several Democratic and Republican campaigns also did registration drives targeting Latinos. 

Henry says he believes Trump’s comments helped push Latinos to attend the caucuses, and played a role in Trump losing on Monday despite leading in earlier polls.

Henry said some voters who identify as Democrats decided to attend Republican caucuses so they could vote against the businessman and reality television star.

"We had a lot of people saying that they were going to caucus with the Republicans," Henry said. "There was a lot of crossover."

Henry says his organization is looking to replicate its voter registration campaign in other states ahead of the November election. "This mobilization needs to continue," he said.

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