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Few in Numbers, Latino Voters Could Still Sway Iowa Caucus

First Posted: Feb 01, 2016 01:40 PM EST
Latino polling place

Photo : David McNew/Getty Images

While critical in the party contests to pick presidential nominees, Iowa is not known for its Latino community. But some three percent of the Hawkeye State's voters are, in fact, Hispanic, and could potentially make a difference in the close races expected in the Feb. 1 caucuses.

Latinos have become a key demographic in national races, and their influence has also grown in Iowa, according to a report by the Center for Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies at the City University of New York. In 1990, just 1 percent of Iowa's voting population was Hispanic, a figure that has now grown to 3.1 percent.

Majority of Latinos registered to vote in Iowa

Meanwhile, the study estimates that about 58 percent of Latinos in Iowa are registered to vote, a number that has remained virtually even in the two decades between 1992 and 2012. The vast majority of Hispanic residents of Iowa, some 80 percent, is of Mexican descent, while smaller numbers of Latinos in Iowa claim Puerto Rican, Salvadoran, Cuban and Dominican ancestry.

Wherever their families may originally hail from, their votes will be closely watched on Feb. 1, Laird Bergad, who led the research in the study, told CNN.

"It's quite ironic that there's a very small percentage of Latinos who may very well decide the outcome of the 2016 election," Bergad said, noting that Hispanics could also decide races in other battleground states such as Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and even New Hampshire -- the site of the first-in-the-nation primary on Feb. 9.

Latino voters in Iowa 'participate wholeheartedly,' activist says

To make their voices heard, meanwhile, Latino voters in the United States should take their right to cast their ballots very seriously, noted Maria Bribriesco, the deputy director in Iowa for the League of United Latin Americans.

"The people that participate, participate wholeheartedly," Bribriesco said about Hispanics in the Hawkeye state. "When the population is energized and they bring out new voters, that is when that candidate will win Iowa."

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