Latino voter surge will echo across generations

People line up at an early voting site at UC Irvine. California registration has surged.
People line up at an early voting site at UC Irvine. California registration has surged. The Associated Press

American democracy will be on full display Tuesday, nowhere more fully than in California, where officials rightly champion that most fundamental of rights, the right to vote.

Here in California, 19.4 million people have taken the first important step toward exercising their franchise by registering to vote. More than a fourth of them, 5.3 million, registered for the first time or updated their registration since January.

Many accomplished the task online with a few keyboard clicks, thanks to a relatively new law that allows people to register by providing their drivers’ license information, the last four digits of their Social Security number, and swearing that they are eligible to vote. It’s easy, as it should be.

Unfortunately, Donald Trump is ending his divisive campaign in the same bellicose way he began, this time warning of “large-scale” voter fraud, and urging his supporters to act as election monitors. It is a dangerous and desperate tactic, but not unexpected from an angry bully who, based on the latest polls, faces defeat.

Today, Latinos account for 24 percent of the California electorate, or 4.7 million individuals. Trump ought to contemplate that number; thoughtful California Republicans are thinking about it, as they envision rebuilding from the wreckage caused by their presidential nominee.

Paul Mitchell, vice president of Political Data Inc., reports that since January, 1.5 million Latinos registered to vote or updated their registration in California. That is 32 percent of their total. Mitchell notes a mere 10 percent of the 1.5 million registered as Republicans.

Those astonishing numbers reflect the impact of Trump’s attacks on immigrants and suggest his rhetoric will echo across generations, far beyond Tuesday.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla can rightly claim credit for the registration gains, having struck up alliances with Starbucks, Facebook, sports franchises and others to encourage registration, and visiting high schools to teach the importance of voting.

As is happening in other states, many Californians voted early. To do so, we proved who we were by signing our names. On Election Day, poll workers will not ask voters to produce photo identification.

Again, we take seriously the right to count every eligible voter who is motivated to cast a ballot, unlike 32 other states that have established obstacles to voting. All too often, those hurdles, put up by Republican governors and Republican-controlled legislatures, are intended to discourage participation by minorities, young people and occasional voters.

California makes voting simple, as it should be. Too many other states don’t. What are they afraid of?