Dr. Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto

Dr. Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto

About

Victoria is Assistant Dean at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and a contributor to MSNBC and Telemundo. Her areas of expertise in the domestic policy landscape include immigration, Latinos, women and childcare, and economic equity. more→

Research

Victoria brings an interdisciplinary lens to understanding policy development and its intersection with institutional and political contexts. Underlying her academic work is the applicability of rigorous research to on-the-ground policy realities.

Dr. Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto
Dr. Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto

Recent Media

This Op-Ed originally appeared in the Houston Chronicle.

It’s hot out, I mean really hot. It’s the type of weather where you’re always sprinting – from air-conditioned spot to air-conditioned spot. The triple digit temperature alone could justify not turning out to vote in the July 31 primary runoff. But that excuse doesn’t cut it, or as we say here in Texas, that dog don’t hunt.

In Texas, if no one candidate in a primary race gets 50 percent or more of the votes, then the top two finishers go mano-a-mano in a runoff. In our May primary, there were several races from U.S. Senate to state and local offices that didn’t meet the majority threshold. That means our work is not done. We still need to decide who from the Democratic and Republican parties will go on to the general election in November.

At first sight the whole process of a run-off seems like a big pain. We already came out in May to help our parties pick our slate; why do we have to come back again? But the truth is, it’s not a pain, it’s a privilege voters in few states have. We are able to narrow down who it is we truly want to speak for us. Here in Texas we have that further say this week during early voting, on election day itself or through mail in voting. And the excuse about not voting in the runoff because you didn’t vote in the primary won’t work; any registered voter can vote in the primary runoff. If you did vote in one of the party’s primaries, you can only vote in the same party’s runoff.

Not too long ago, voting was a one-shot deal. If you didn’t get to your assigned polling place at some point during the day of the election you were out of luck. Today, we have a week of early voting with our choice of polling place within our county. In Austin where I live, there are 18 early voting spots – with more than half of them at grocery stores. Basically, I can do my voting duty and pick up the bananas and milk all at the same time. And those folks who can’t get around as easily because of their age or other reasons don’t even have to leave their homes. They can vote by mail. Finally, if you’re one of those who likes the thrill of election-day voting or you’re a procrastinator, you have from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the day of the election to cast your vote.

It’s easy to complain about politics, especially at the federal level where gridlock is an understatement. The tone of politics at home and in Washington, D.C., also doesn’t help. Politics, like football, is a contact sport and there’s going to be some ugliness, but that doesn’t mean we don’t show up to the game. It means we show up to the game and just make sure we cheer as loud as we can for our team. There are no excuses to stay on the sidelines for our primary runoffs and then our general election. Besides, I promise that all of the polling places this July will be air-conditioned.

This post originally appeared on NBCLatino

First the bad news, let’s get that out of the way. Latino youth are at a double disadvantage when it comes to political participation. Latinos are the group with the lowest likelihood of turnout and across groups young folks are less likely to vote. That means that young Latinos are theoretically the least likely group to participate politically.

Political participation is a result of resources.  Put simply, those with more money and education are more likely to register and turnout.  Latinos have the dubious honor of not only having the lowest resource levels but having suffered the greatest decline in wealth during the recession.  The white-to-Latino ratio of median wealth after the recession stood at 18-to-1; before the recession, that ratio was less than half.  And in terms of educational resources, Latinos are once again at a disadvantage with Latino dropout rates at least doubling those of other groups.

However, rich and poor young folks alike are less likely to turnout than their parents or even grandparents.  In the last election 24 percent of 18-29 year olds voted, while 45 percent of voters 30 and older did.  Even in the youth centered 2008 election the 18-29 year olds lagged at least ten points behind all other age brackets.  And state voting laws don’t help.  In 2008 in state’s that did not have Election Day Registration young Americans were about nine percent less likely to turnout.  Younger folks are already less likely to turnout and any mechanism that makes the process of voting harder further suppresses the youth vote.

It seems like bad news all around.  Especially, since Latinos have the highest percentage of youth, one-third of Latinos are under the age of 18 compared to one quarter for non-Latinos.  Latinos are becoming younger, not older.

The first silver lining is that younger voters are becoming more racially and ethnically diverse.  While only 7 percent of the 30 plus electorate was Latino, 15 percent of the 18-29 year old electorate was Latino in the 2010 election.  And in the 2008 election Latinos as well as African-Americans increased their turnout from the previous presidential election.  This data is good news not just because it shows a tangible increase in Latino youth voting, but because we know from political science research that voting is habit forming.  Once a person has voted, they are more likely to do so in the future.   (more…)