“The Latino culture, it’s very hard to make them vote because maybe the corruption [in their home country], maybe they don’t have the education, maybe you never told them before they have something where they can make a difference,” Edwin Gil, a Charlotte, N.C. painter recently told the Washington Post.
On top of that, there is less funding for voter registration than in previous cycles, according to Martinez-De-Castro, and super PACs have given rise to a barrage of negative ads that are likely to decrease participation.
There is also greater instability in general, not just for Latino voters, but all voters, and the economic crisis and foreclosure crisis have hit Latinos particularly hard. Instability can lead to lower voter participation, but certain issues and upheavals may also compel people to take a stand at the polls.
DeSipio thinks the barrage of negative campaign ads hitting airwaves is unlikely to have much impact on the presidential race because "people seem pretty set in their opinions."
However, the ads are designed to create confusion in the minds of people who are truly ambivalent, said DeSipio, which can make them effective in state and local races where the candidates may be unfamiliar.
That confusion could discourage people from voting, according to DeSipio, but "that could be counterbalanced by voter outreach."
He said the Obama campaign ran very successful voter outreach efforts in 2008 and "all evidence is that they're gearing up again" for 2012.
Sometimes voter outreach is more effective when it comes from somebody known, like a priest in a church, an employer in the workplace, or somebody who comes to the door and has a claim to be part of the community, like a school board member. Short of that, DeSipio says, more impersonal contact like a robo call or a flier has a positive effect but it’s not as strong.
"It's really 51 state stories rather than a national story," DeSipio said. "It's often too homogenized. Local issues often drive turnout. In New Mexico, churches are important [to voter outreach]. In Nevada, it's unions. It's not too surprising, but it is if it means campaigns have to target people differently."
The rise of voter identification laws has also had an impact. Many are still pending in court, but a number of states, including Pennsylvania, have pushed for laws that require photo identification to cast a ballot.
In all, 11 states have passed new voter ID laws since 2011 including Latino-heavy states like Texas, Virginia, and North Carolina.
While most voters support ID laws, according to a Washington Post poll, West says the voting ID laws "discourage certain people from voting because they worry about personal consequences to them. They raise the personal costs of voting and anything that does that decreases voter turnout."
He added that he "thinks it's the wrong way to go. We should be encouraging people to vote."
Barreto also opposes the voter ID laws -- he has served as a witness for the plaintiffs in the Pennsylvania voter ID case.
"If the voter ID laws are implemented, they will absolutely have the effect of decreasing Latino and black turnout," Barreto said.
DeSipio thinks that the voter ID laws will have a "chilling effect" on Latinos in that they are disproportionately more likely to lack the needed ID, and also because it "sends a chilling message about participation."