RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- For many Latino voters, the 2020 election is not just about casting a ballot, it's about making their voices heard.
More than 55,000 Latinos have registered to vote in North Carolina since 2016, an increase that has been steadily climbing in the last decade.
Latino voters now make up 2% more of North Carolina's registered voters than they did in 2008.
Latinos aren't just registering to vote, they are showing up. Turnout for Latino voters is almost three times higher than it was in 2016, according to data analyzed by NC Democracy.
"All elections are important, but I think there is very, very much different election this time because there is so much at the table so the urgency is there, the need is there," explained Mauricio Castro, a member of NC Congress of Latino.
He and other local members have been using Sunday mass as a way to connect with potential voters who might otherwise not participate in the election.
"We have seen many things with the group we're working with. Many good and bad. Everything we do is a team effort with the same goal to get the vote out and a better future for the students and schools, for health and all immigrants," said another participant, Mateo Andres.
The organizers have passed out 90,000 early voting pamphlets over the past few months urging eligible Latinos to register to vote or to encourage those who are ineligible to spread the word.
"Being an immigrant does not mean that you cannot talk about your needs. We're part of this society and there is many, many needs that really need to be addressed and they have not been addressed so when we share our stories we connect with them so they know we are here in the same boat trying to get the attention of officials so we can get answers to our questions," said Marie Elena Camacho, another NC Congress of Latino member.
Overall, non-white voters have increased by nearly 6% in North Carolina over the last four years. However, not all demographics have seen an influx in voters. Both Black and American Indian voters declined since the last presidential election. However, voters who identify as 'other' doubled.
The Pew Research Center found the increase in Latino voters spans across the United States, with many battleground states seeing the highest influx.
North Carolina State University political science professor Steven Greene said this overall increase in non-white voters could play an important role on Nov. 3.
"In so far as the non-white portion of the electorate in North Carolina is higher in 2020 than it was in 2016 and we'll see just how much higher, that absolutely advantages Joe Biden and Democratic candidates," Greene explained. "Democrats always do better among non-white voters--especially among Black voters but also pretty prominently among other non-white groups."
Despite the increase in registered voters, Latinos are still underrepresented at the polls. The Latinx population accounts for nearly 10% of North Carolina but only 3% of its voters.
Alirio Estevez, the leader of Voto Latino Chatham NC, explained much of this disparity is due to some being ineligible to vote.
"We specifically try to target the younger population because most of their parents cannot vote. They don't have the right to vote, but their children do. They are American citizens," Estevez said. "They know they have to fight for their parents. They have to fight to give them a voice."
He said many of the children of immigrants are tackling the voting system for the first time. Voto Latino, a national organization with local branches, helps walk new voters through the process and sometimes accompanies them to the polls.
"We feel like the population in our area, the Latino population understands that we have to make ourselves heard and that's going to make a change, maybe more down the road. Right now is just the beginning and hopefully at the end of this election we will see the increase in Latino voters and hence politicians will pay more attention to our needs, our interest because our community needs investment," Estevez said.
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