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Minority populations poised for political power as Southern Nevada diversifies

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Posted at 6:20 PM, Nov 17, 2021

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — At the ballot box in 2020, minority communities came out in droves to choose political leaders at the national, state, and local levels.

UNLV Political Science chair David Damore said in five, 10, or 20 years — as the population continues to balloon in Southern Nevada — diverse communities could hold a lot of political power.

"You have huge demographic differences between the urban and rural spaces," he said. "Clark County is majority-minority, but once you get out of Clark County, the rest of the state is overwhelmingly white."

The fastest-growing population in Southern Nevada has been the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. In 2020, the group also had the largest jump in political engagement, with a staggering 46% increase in total votes over 2016.

Eric Jeng, Asian Community Development Counsel director of outreach, said the AAPI community has been energized by issues ranging from the economy to education, health care, and public safety — but calling the community a unified voting bloc would be incorrect.

"It's not a monolith," he said. "It's all growing, so we have 29 different cultures and languages that we try to represent, try to communicate, and I think that's the exciting part."

Another community that has been, and likely will continue to be, politically fired up is Southern Nevada's Hispanic and Latino population.

Maria Nieto Orta, Mi Familia Vota political director, said this could be a community to watch for decades to come.

"The Latino community does have to back you in order to win an election," she said.

Nieto Orta said the community has increasingly swung from Democrat to Republican as the issues affecting the Hispanic and Latino population become more diverse and passionate for voters.

Nieto Orta said the politicians who want to be elected will need to find out who cares about what with precision in Latino communities to attract voters.

"It's important to remember that the Latino community is not a monolith," she said. "We're very diverse."

The African American community didn't increase its share of the electorate in 2020 despite an increase in votes like other minority groups, but Yvette Williams, Clark County Black Caucus chair, said the African American community is not one to be ignored in the coming years.

"Our young people are seeing that, you know what? That old saying that one person can't change city hall? Doesn't apply to me," Williams said.

She said 37% of African American voters between 18 and 24 have registered as independent, which bucks the traditional heavy support for the Democratic Party in a region that leans blue.

"If the party doesn't begin to address those issues that are important to the black electorate, yeah, you're going to see that happening more," Williams said.

Damore, the UNLV political science chair, said no matter how the population grows or who's engaged, it's a safe bet Nevada won't become a boring state around elections any time soon.