Latinos made up 39% of California’s population last year, but a new report says just 10% of county supervisors and 15% of city council members are Latino.
By Michael Finnegan
July 8, 2015
Latinos’ emergence as California’s largest ethnic group is casting new light on an enduring paradox: Many do not vote, limiting their influence on government decisions that have a profound impact on their lives.
Latinos were 39% of the state’s population last year, just surpassing non-Latino whites, at 38%, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates.
But in the November election, Latinos cast just 15% of the ballots, according to Political Data, a nonpartisan firm that tracks California voting patterns.
The gap between Latinos’ population share and their clout in elections is a familiar pattern. It’s also a longtime frustration of Latino political leaders.
By any measure, Latinos are very underrepresented at every level of government in California. – Roger Salazar, California Latino Legislative Caucus
On Thursday, the California Latino Legislative Caucus will release a report showing that for all their advances in recent years — and they are significant — Latinos still make up a disproportionately small share of the state’s elected officials.
Just 10% of county supervisors and 15% of city council members are Latino, according to the report, “The Status of Latinos in California.”
“By any measure, Latinos are very underrepresented at every level of government in California,” caucus spokesman Roger Salazar said.
Their numbers are higher in the Legislature — 24 of the 120 members — but still just 20%, barely half of the Latino portion of the population. All but two of the Latino lawmakers are Democrats.
Still, Latinos’ influence has been rising in Sacramento. Thanks largely to Latino lawmakers, the new state budget includes public healthcare coverage for an estimated 170,000 immigrant children who are in the country illegally.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s approval in 2013 of driver’s licenses for immigrants in the U.S. illegally came after more than a decade of pitched battles by Latino elected officials.
California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León
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