November 1, 2018. The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, NALEO, keeps track of how many Hispanics serve in different government offices around the country. In New York, the numbers have been rising, but rising very slowly, over the past two decades.

Over 20 year ago, in 1996, two of the 33 United States representatives New York sent to Washington were Hispanic, both serving in the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2018, the total number of representatives was down to 29, due to reapportionment, and of those three were Hispanic. That’s an increase from six percent to 10 percent of our representatives in Washington, all of them on the House side and none in the Senate. (Data through 2017 are available on the NALEO web site; 2018 data was provided directly to FPI and will be published soon.)

There are more Latinx representatives in the New York State legislature, but there, too, the Hispanic/Latinx share follows the same broad trend, increasing from five percent in 1996 to 10 percent today.

How much of this is about the growing Latinx population, and how much is a coming of age politically as more Latinx people run for office and win higher levels of elections? The chart below shows the trend lines. Part of the story is a growth in population, to be sure—the Hispanic share of the population increased from 15 percent in 1996 to 18 percent in 2018. If you squint, you can also see some closing of the gap, with the two lines getting a little closer together. (How to read the chart: If Latinx New Yorkers were proportionately represented, the two lines would be right on top of each other.)
While Latinx New Yorkers may be closing the representation gap slowly, they are also often fighting against unequal odds. Gerrymandered districts mean that Latinx voters are “cracked and packed” in ways that make a run for office harder for a member of their community. The repeated failure of federal immigration reform means that undocumented immigrants, many of whom are Latinx, have no pathway to citizenship and are therefore not able to vote. And, green card holders who could become citizens are often put off by the high fees and administrative burdens of applying for citizenship, though there are New York City and New York State programs to address this issue.

An article in City and State magazine makes good use of the data to tell the story.

David Dyssegaard Kallick