Why A Growing Hispanic Population Might Not Turn Texas Blue

The state’s political map may stay mostly red, despite the state’s changing demographics.

By Laura RiceJuly 11, 2016 9:59 am|

By next year, people who are Hispanic will outnumber Anglo-Americans in Texas. But right now, fewer than 20 percent of them vote. Researchers and politicos have been asking “Why not?” for ages.

“Postcards from the Great Divide” is a series of short, 10-minute documentaries about politics in nine states. The series premieres Monday.

Paul Stekler, a University of Texas professor and executive producer of the project, says the films try to get a diverse snapshot of politics in America.

“The idea for the series ‘Postcards from the Great Divide’ was to try to figure out how we could, in nine vignettes in nine different states, take a look at subjects that were not (only) about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump or about the dynamics of politics within the states that have an impact on November” Stekler says, “but also are indicative of just the divisions in the country right now.”

The film about Florida covers the enthusiasm for African-Americans to vote after the Obama presidency. In Colorado, the series looks at what happens when millions of dollars are spent on local elections. And in Texas, director Miguel Alvarez explores why Latino Texans aren’t voting.

Alvarez says Stekler approached him with the idea for a piece that reflected the assumption that Texas is supposed to turn “purple” – adding some blue to the state’s already strong red map – based on a growing Latino population.

“Both of us felt that it’s a myth,” he says. “We wanted to make a film that just underscored the challenges that are actually happening. … A lot of what we found was that people just felt like their votes don’t really matter and that nothing changes.”

Alvarez says Hispanic voters aren’t turning out to the polls due to a combination of factors, including people’s previous experiences with politicians in other countries.

“You really have to convince them that it’s worth going out on a Tuesday after they get off of a long day of work and go out there and vote,” Alvarez says. “Predominantly in Mexico, but Central America, South America, politics are not exactly seen as this beacon of good for the people. … So when you come to the United States, and if you’ve never voted down there, then you don’t teach your kids to vote. And if no one ever teaches you that it’s important to vote … then nobody votes.”

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.

Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel and Hannah McBride.