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Latinos are nearly 30% of Nevada’s population. How will they vote?

AP
AP

Latinos make up nearly 30% of Nevada’s population, making their votes very important to the upcoming November election. But the questions remain: How will they vote, and what issues do they care about?  

Earlier this year, a poll found most Latinos still lean Democratic. And they feel the economy is the most important issue. But just two years ago, pollsters said climate change was top of mind for Latino voters. And what do they think about the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court? 

Laurents Bañuelos Benitez is a ninth grade AP English teacher at Rancho High School who grew up in Las Vegas. He also served as an oral historian for UNLV’s LatinX Oral Histories Project

“I was born and raised here in Las Vegas, particularly the east side, that's what I call home. And many people here in town consider that the heart of the Latino community,” he said. “But when you kind of put a little bit of thought into it, it makes sense because the east side is a very working-class community. When you say that the economy is a top issue, well, working class people care about the economy, because a good economy equals good work, right?”

He noted the Latino voting bloc is not a monolith. 

“It's very easy for politicians to say, ‘We have to go after the Latino bloc, and we need to chase the Latino votes,’” he said. 

Using his family as an example, his father is Mexican, and his mother is Salvadorian. 

“What brought my dad to this country is a very different reason for what brought my mother's country.”

His father came to the U.S. for work, while his mother was escaping “a very violent” Salvadoran civil war. She then worked to support relatives back home. 

According to Bañuelos Benitez, the top three populations of Latinos in Las Vegas are Mexicans, Cubans and Salvadorians. 

While recent polling reported only 2% of Latinos said education was a top issue, he disagrees.

“We are sending more Latinos to college than ever before. The flip side of that is, unfortunately, we are also dropping out at the highest rate of any other minority group,” he said. “A lot of the time, these students are first generation, they don't know how to navigate these educational spaces.”
When it comes to immigration, he said the Latino community may be “tired of broken promises.”

Multiple administrations have tried to get the Latino vote through promising immigration reform, he said, but never came through. 

“Even looking back at the Obama administration,” Bañuelos Benitez explained. “He, at the time had the political goodwill, he had the House, he had the Senate, and he decided to pursue health care instead of immigration reform. I don't blame him, I think healthcare reform was desperately needed in this country. But I think for Latinos, that was kind of a sign of, ‘Okay, we're not a priority for this country.’”


Meanwhile, the Latino Victory Project last month announced a new $5 million voter campaign focusing on climate change. It’s called " Vote Like a Madre,” and it features celebrities like Eva Longoria and Lin-Manuel Miranda.  

That’s a lot of money and a lot of star power, but will it motivate Latino voters? Nathalie Reyes, president and CEO of the Latino Victory Project, joined  State of Nevada producer Mike Prevatt to discuss.

The outreach campaign, which will be both in Spanish and English, is an investment, she said, to mobilize Latina mothers in Arizona, Colorado and Nevada.

“We want to make sure that they're coming out to vote and demanding that candidates have a bold plan to combat climate change,” she said. 

Their organization did a poll with Telemundo in 2021, which showed 60% of Latinos saw the climate crisis as a top issue. Climate change affects every single person. Latino families know the importance of having clean air for their children, she said.

“I think that climate change poses a severe threat to Latino communities, livelihoods and economic stability,” Reyes said. “The cost of climate disasters such as floods, fires, heat waves, put an additional financial burden on Latino families, especially those who are already dealing with financial worries. I think that climate only adds yet another layer of difficulties to our economic stability.”

A recent NBC News poll showed some Nevada Latinos surveyed said they may stay home this election and not cast a vote. 

Reyes said they’ll go door-knocking to remind the community why this election is important. 

“We are looking forward to mobilizing Latina mothers and in turn making sure that their communities come out and vote,” she said.

Laurents Buñ​uelos Benitez, ninth grade AP English teacher, Rancho High School, and a historian, UNLV’s LatinX Oral Histories Project;  Nathalie Reyes, president and CEO, Latino Victory Project 

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Mike has been a producer for State of Nevada since 2019. He produces — and occasionally hosts — segments covering entertainment, gaming & tourism, sports, health, Nevada’s marijuana industry, and other areas of Nevada life.
Christopher Alvarez is a news producer and podcast audio editor at Nevada Public Radio for the State of Nevada program, and has been with them for over a year.
Kristen DeSilva (she/her) is the audience engagement specialist for Nevada Public Radio. She curates and creates content for knpr.org, our weekly newsletter and social media for Nevada Public Radio and Desert Companion.