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Latinos favor Hillary Clinton. But will they show up to vote?

Polls show Hispanics largely support the Democratic candidate. But historically, Latino voter turnout has been low.
14 Jul 2016 – 06:15 PM EDT

A majority of Latinos favor Hillary Clinton for president, according to recent polls, including a new survey released by Univision today. Several surveys also indicate Hispanics feel more enthusiastic about this year's election compared to previous years.

Democrats hope this energized, largely anti-Donald Trump voter bloc will give Clinton an edge, especially in swing states, but turnout and access to the polls could be a problem.

Historically, Hispanic voter turnout has lagged behind white and black voter turnout. In the 2012 presidential election, slightly less than half of eligible Hispanic voters cast their ballot. Plus, new state-based voter ID laws could prevent some Latinos from casting their vote, some observers say.

Latinos favor Clinton, surveys show

A July 14 Univision poll conducted by Bendixen & Amandi International and The Tarrance Group found that 67% of Hispanic voters support Clinton, versus 19% for Trump. Almost 80% have a very unfavorable view of Trump, and more than half feel "very enthusiastic" about this election.

Similarly, a July 11 Latino Decisions/Americas Voice poll found that 74% of Latino voters prefer Clinton, versus 16% for Trump. The survey showed a third of Latino Republican voters said they were likely to vote for Clinton, and 54% of Hispanic voters said they're more enthusiastic about this election compared to four years ago.

“One of the most important takeaways from these numbers is the enthusiasm we are seeing among the Latino electorate heading into the 2016 election–a fair amount of which can be attributed to Donald Trump’s laser like focus on Latinos and immigrants during his campaign," said Sylvia Manzano, principal of Latino Decisions during a conference call Monday. "So what we’re seeing is much more voter enthusiasm, much earlier in the race this year than in previous elections.”

Almost two-thirds of registered Latino voters said they are more interested in politics this year than in 2012, according to a July 7 Pew Research Center poll.

That survey gave Clinton a 66%-24% advantage over Trump, and indicated that the former secretary of state holds a large lead among millennial, female, bilingual and Spanish-dominant Hispanic voters.

Clinton has been gaining among Hispanic voters, a July 5 New Latino Voice poll revealed. Since the group's first survey in April, support for Clinton jumped by nearly 20 points.

How many Latinos will vote?

In previous general elections, Latino voter turnout has rarely exceeded 50 percent. During the 2012 presidential election, for example, only 48 percent of eligible Latino voters showed up at the polls. But polls reflect increased interest in this year's vote.

"The electorate is definitely paying attention earlier on in the cycle," said Maria Urbina, vice president of politics and campaigns for Voto Latino, noting her organization and others have observed greater interest this year than in 2012. "We hope that really does create maximum participation."

Young voters will also be critical. In 2012, almost 62 percent of all millennial voters cast a ballot, but only 48 percent of Latino millennials did. Urbina said Voto Latino is zeroing in on youth, who make up the bulk of newly eligible Hispanic voters. "For many of our families, it's their first time [voting], so there's a considerable amount of education and time that goes into getting out the vote," she said.

Still, of this year's estimated 27.3 million eligible Hispanic voters, only 13.1 million will vote, the National Association of Elected and Appointed Officials projects.

“[Turnout] is anemic despite the fact that we’re 17 percent of the population,” Jose Fernandez, former assistant Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs, told Fox News Latino. “We have not voted as much as we should have.”

Plus, only half of Latinos say they're "absolutely certain" they've registered to vote this year, versus almost 70 percent of blacks and 80 percent of whites, according to Pew.

Hispanic voters could face barriers to the voting booth

Casting a ballot could also be a challenge in some states. Joanna Cuevas Ingram, associate counsel at Latino Justice PRLDEF, a nonpartisan national civil rights and legal defense fund, told Univision News that a growing number of voter ID and citizenship verification laws could potentially disenfranchise Hispanics.

"Voters are faced with potentially being asked to prove their identity as a U.S. citizen over and over again in certain states," she told Univision News. "That can be very demoralizing, particularly in states where they only provide this information in English."

In Kansas, for example, a voter ID law prevented some from registering to vote because they hadn't brought proof of citizenship to the DMV. In May, a federal judge ruled the legislation violates federal law.

This is also the first presidential election since Shelby County v. Holder, the 2013 Supreme Court case that struck down part of the Voting Rights Act, allowing states to change election law without federal government approval.

Other incidents have caused concern, such as the New York April presidential primary when tens of thousands of people - mostly Latinos - were removed from voter rolls in Brooklyn. Officials claim it was a mistake.

"We’re concerned about the rights of Latino voters – particularly Spanish-speaking voters – experiencing potential discrimination at the polls in November," said Cuevas Ingram. "There are a lot of barriers that are being placed in front of them."

Urbina also recognizes these risks, which could also include logistical issues like long lines or last-minute changes in polling places. "These are real concerns," she said. "But I don't want it to be so gloom and doom that we scare people away from exercising their right to vote."