September 04, 2013

Amid the current debate on immigration reform, much attention is on House members and how their vote for or against reform will play in their home districts.  But many congressional districts have a huge number of naturalized immigrants and young Asians and Latinos who are entering the electorate, and who deeply support immigration reform.

Political analysts frequently discuss the changing demographics of voters but no analysis to date has quantified a key aspect of this change for each congressional district.  Thus, we have no way of knowing what portion of newly eligible voters in the 2014 elections come from either Asian and Latino citizen teenagers who will vote for the first time in 2014, or from legal immigrants who will naturalize by 2014.

Young Asians and Latinos will have a major impact on the composition of newly eligible voters in upcoming elections.  These groups are highly represented among the population of teenage citizens that become able to vote for the first time with each election.  About 1.8 million U.S. citizen Asians and Latinos become eligible to vote in each two-year election cycle.

Immigrants who become U.S. citizens through naturalization will also be a significant contributor to the evolving electorate.  Each election cycle, about 1.4 million of these new citizens become eligible to vote nationally.

Together, these groups will constitute 34 percent of all newly eligible voters in the 2014 elections.

In certain states and congressional districts, the impact of these newly eligible voters will be even greater.  For example, in Texas, these groups will be about 53 percent of all newly eligible voters in 2014.  In Florida they will be 45 percent.  However, California tops the list with young Asians, young Latinos, and recently naturalized U.S. citizens composing 68 percent of the newly eligible voters in 2014.

Historically, young adults have relatively low registration and voting rates, and this may slow their impact on election outcomes.  But they will steadily enter the electorate and move into older age cohorts that indeed vote more frequently.  Young Asians and Latinos have unique motivations to vote because immigration reform often directly affects their parents and families.  These young persons are also the target of competing efforts of the major parties to win their support.

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