By Rose Arce, CNN
(CNN) – The voting population of Latinos has exploded to the point where Latinos will not only be a decisive force in the presidential election, but will likely affect the outcome of political contests from school boards and statehouses to Congress, according a new report by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.
"Latino voter enthusiasm is up," said Arturo Vargas, executive director of NALEO. A recent poll by ImpreMedia-Latino Decisions confirms that analysis, counting three quarters of Latino voters as actively engaged in the election with 14% of all Latinos saying they are actively working on getting out the vote.
The number of registered Latinos has increased by 26% in the last four years to 12.2 million or 8.7% of all voters. A new potential Latino voter turns 18 every 30 seconds. Already, one of four U.S. citizens under the age of 18 is Latino, including 48% of the youth population of Texas, Vargas said, but low voter registration among young people and new voter ID laws could dampen turnout.
Clarissa Martinez, who works on civic engagement for the National Council of La Raza, cautioned that Latino voting power is held back by a lack of registration. "Once Latinos register they vote in nearly as high a numbers as anyone," she said. But a third of the entire community is not yet 18, another 23% are ineligible because their immigration status and just 14 million of the 24 million eligible Latino voters have actually registered, she said.