Latinx Populations in Minnesota
Similar to the trend nationwide, the Latinx population in Minnesota could be considered a “sleeping giant.”
Citizenship and Elected Officials
The state of Minnesota is home to people with heritage in about 18 of the 26 different Latin American countries and has one of the largest immigrant populations in the Midwest. For Latinxs, culturally speaking, this translates into at least 18 different life experiences with government and voting practices.
Latinxs’ experiences of government in their native countries are not all positive. This dynamic within civic engagement efforts is rarely taken into account by majority organizations.
Minnesota has about 3.9 million eligible voters, and Latinxs represent 2.1% of that total, with 84,000 voters. The majority of the Latinx electorate in Minnesota is between 18 and 29 and of Mexican heritage.
As of 2015, the Minnesota Legislature has five sitting members of Latinx heritage. Rep. Carlos Mariani from Saint Paul and Sen. Melisa Franzen from Edina are both of Puerto Rican heritage, Rep. Jon Koznick from Lakeville and Sen. Patricia Torres Ray from the Minneapolis/Richfield district are of Colombian heritage and Rep. Eric Lucero from Dayton self-identifies as “Hispanic, Latino or Spanish Origin.”
Major Issues in Minnesota
Within the Minnesota Latinx community, there are a number of barriers that continue to prevent members of this diverse community from fully participating in the democratic process. Some of the larger issues are:
- Obtaining election information in Spanish. Similar to the national trend, it can be difficult to find information on candidates or even ballots printed in Spanish.
- Transportation and poverty impact Latinx disproportionately in Minnesota. Many are working in low-wage positions or rely on public transportation, which can create barriers in access.
- Low levels of participation by older generations can create a cycle in which whole communities feel unrepresented by their elected officials. Their specific needs will not be addressed by those who represent them because they lack a voice.
- When the borders of electoral districts (groups of voters) are redrawn and Manipulation of the boundaries of an electoral district so as to favor or harm one party or class determine in how electoral districts are drawn and have been used to negatively impact Latinx voters’ power.
Currently in Minnesota, voters who cannot read English are allowed to bring an interpreter to help at the polls. They can also get assistance from an on-site election judge, if that person happens to speak their native language. In Minneapolis alone, there are about 125 polling places across the city, and not all have Spanish-speaking judges.
This is a key barrier to naturalized Latinxs who’ve decided to become citizens but cannot access their city, county, state or country’s civic process. It’s important for election judges to represent all communities.