From systemic restrictions, to lack of outreach, here are some of the reasons why Latino and Asian Americans continue to trail behind in voter registration. Unsplash

NEW YORK CITY - As the 2024 election cycle gears up with the two candidates from each party set, there is one challenge that remains persistent across the country— voter registration rates among some minority groups.

Black, Asian and Latino eligible voters have historically trailed behind those of white adult citizens when it comes to casting ballots, according to the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. In recent years, however, Black voter registration has surged, while those of Asians and Latinos remain among the lowest in the U.S.

Based on national estimates from the last two federal election years, the disparity in registration rates between white and Latino eligible voters is around 13 percentage points, NPR reports. For white and Asian eligible voters, the gap is about nine percentage points.

"This is something that needs to be paid attention to sustainably all the time," said Rodrigo Dominguez-Villegas, director of research at the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute. "It is not something that should be paid attention to only when we are getting close to a presidential election."

There are several reasons for this persisting trend, NPR added. Here are some of them.

Day-to-Day Issues Overshadow Political Participation

A report by the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute, points out that while more states started allowing early in-person and mail voting after the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be hard for some eligible voters to prioritize political participation over their day-to-day needs.

"There are some types of jobs that might be preventing people from being able to even take time off work to vote. And so when people know that they're not going to be able to exercise the right to vote, they are a lot less inclined to even register for it," Dominguez-Villegas said.

Similarly, because Latino and Asian voters are primarily naturalized U.S. citizens, they have to learn the political system independently, which can make it more difficult to figure out how to get registered to vote, especially in states that don't offer automatic voter registration or same-day registration.

"They need to learn the ropes of the political system at the same time as they are learning everything else about living in a different country," added Dominguez-Villegas.

Latinos and Asian Americans are less likely to be contacted by campaigns

According to a Pew Research Center survey, Asian Americans and Latinos were among the least likely to say that a political candidate's campaign or a group supporting a candidate contacted them in the run-up to the 2020 general election.

"There's a long-standing view that you don't target precious campaign resources towards groups that you consider to be low-propensity voters," Taeku Lee, a professor of government at Harvard University told NPR. "And if a group of Asian Americans are predominantly naturalized citizens and a large group of them are potentially first-time voters, then you're likely to be seen as a low-propensity voter."

Nevertheless, Lee warns, low registration and naturalization rates among these two groups should not be seen as a sign of low interest in U.S. politics.

Voting restrictions can disproportionately affect people of color

In some states, restrictive voter ID requirements and systemic barriers to voter registration can disproportionately affect people of color, NPR reports.

In 2020, for instance, Latinos were more than twice as likely than their white counterparts to not have any government-issued photo ID that had not expired, according to a report by the University of Maryland's Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement and the voter advocacy group VoterRiders.

"Citizenship rights are not something that you can really simply take for granted or ignore, but they are rights of citizenship that can be expanded or that can be contracted depending on the politics of the day," Lee says. "And the politics of today is a politics where there are organized forces that are aiming to further contract those rights of citizenship for groups like Latinx and Asian Americans."

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