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The Latino vote: Growing in numbers, and in demand

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BETHLEHEM, Pa. — With less than two weeks from Pennsylvania’s primary election, Latinos are primed to play a major role in 2024 — and political parties are taking notice.

According to the Pew Research Center, about 615,000 Latinos in the state are eligible to vote this presidential election year.

Half of those voters reside in in the 222 Corridor — "el corazon de la comunidad” — including cities such as Easton, Bethlehem, Allentown, Lancaster, Lebanon, York, Harrisburg and Gettysburg. The state’s Puerto Rican population makes up the largest of that group, followed by those of Mexican and Dominican descent, data shows.

‘Fast-growing segment’

While the Latino population continues to grow, its impact when all is said and done will depend largely on voter turnout in 2024, said Christopher Borick, a pollster and political science professor at Muhlenberg College in Allentown.

“We’ve seen an increase in power, if you will, in the state, but what is interesting and important to note is among demographic and ethnic groups, when we look at the group as a whole, while it’s becoming a bigger share of the electorate, Latino residents have voted at a lower rate than other groups," said Borick, who heads Muhlenberg's Institute of Public Opinion.

"So, the impact of the Latino vote in the U.S. — and in Pennsylvania in particular — has not been fully realized yet.”

Only 30 percent of Pennsylvania's voting-age Latinos cast ballots in the 2022 midterm elections, the Pew Research Center revealed.

"So, the impact of the Latino vote in the U.S. — and in Pennsylvania in particular — has not been fully realized yet.”
Christopher Borick, Institute of Public Opinion at Muhlenberg College

In Pennsylvania, the Latino vote has been "historically Democratic," Borick said.

Case in point: In the 2020 presidential election, 78 percent of Latinos voted for President Joe Biden, a Democrat, and 18 percent for Republican former President Donald Trump.

However, a new survey by the Latino advocacy group UnidosUS shows that 5 percent of Latinos in Pennsylvania will be voting for the first time this year, which could help swing the battleground state's vote either way.


In response to the “Latinos con Biden-Harris” launch in March, a conservative group founded in 2011 and backed by billionaire Charles Koch has started its own chapter in Pennsylvania.

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A screenshot of the League of Women Voters website, which offers an election guide for voters in Pennsylvania in English and Español.

The Libre Initiative, which targets inflation, student loan debt, and Biden's pro-union policies, hosted its first "La Prosperidad Es Posible" event last week at Chandi Supermarket in Freemansburg.

It's one of several events the group has planned in the months ahead, leading up to November's general election.

Also in March, the Pennsylvania Latino Convention held its first-ever Latina Women Conference in Lancaster. Leaders there from political action committees such as the left-leaning Latino Victory Foundation and MamasconPoder.org discussed what’s at stake in the 2024 election.

Among top concerns —reproductive rights, immigration reform and voter turnout.

‘Pay attention to us’

Maria Delgado-Santana, who was among four leaders who led a panel discussion at the Lancaster conference, is president of the League of Women Voters Pennsylvania, or LWVPA.

As the first Latina to hold that position, she said she is committed to making voting accessible to all regardless of party affiliation.

It's something she fought for in Lawrence County in 2023 after she noticed there were no Spanish-speaking interpreters or ballots at a polling place in her home of New Castle.

"We are now making sure that when [Latino voters] come out, they have fully bilingual information," she said.

As a private constituent, before I even became the president of [PAWLV] I made sure that in our county we had the ballot in Spanish, and that's what we're working on for counties in Erie and Pittsburgh where the Latino population is also growing."

In 2020, LWVPA created a second Vote411.org en Español, for Spanish speakers who need information on how to register to vote and other tools like where to find your polling place.

Whether they're Democrats or Republicans, according to Delgado-Santana, candidates have to engage with the Latino community.

"Latinos want to be heard and if you wanna focus on the Latino community population, speak to them, go to where they live, go visit with them," she said.

"Learn about their concerns, what they care about."

Lack of representation

The issues concerning Latino voters aren't vastly different from non-Latinos, former Fountain Hill Mayor Jose Rosado said.

In 2010, Rosado, a Democrat, became the first Latino mayor elected in Pennsylvania.

While he points to a frustration among some Latinos within the Democratic Party, mainly due to a lack of representation in elected offices, he acknowledges momentum has been hard to come by.

“I think that there's just growing apathy in the Latino community in regards to politicians," he said.

"We have seen some Latinos have success in Bethlehem and Allentown with seats for city council and district seats on the school board, but nothing beyond that. And I think that the frustration has grown when we have people that step up to run for state offices, whether it's state representative or state Senate seats, there hasn't been the level of success there."

A longtime educator in the Lehigh Valley, Rosado founded a political action committee, Alianza Lehigh Valley, in 2019 in hopes of growing the Latino electorate.

While the committee is still registered, he said, it has not been active but he hopes to kickstart it again in 2025.

If Latinos don’t identify with candidates on the ballot, he said, they won't vote.

“I think that the Latino community has got to organize politically from within and we can't depend on either party to support our best interests," he said.

"I think that's number one. We need to have the infrastructure in place to inform and engage to come up and support their agenda.

"We have to be able to organize as a community. Without some type of structure in place, numbers alone aren’t going to make a significant difference."