The wave is coming, and it's looking to shake things up.
The wave is young, eligible Hispanic voters--more than 50,000 Latinos turn 18 years old each month in the United States, according to Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, a Democrat from Texas and chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. And 47 percent of the under-18 U.S. population is Latino, so that's a trend that will only continue, he said during a recent Capitol Hill press conference kicking off a voter registration effort, Voto Latino, aimed at young Hispanics.
Actress America Ferrera, of television's Ugly Betty and star of the movie Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, is partnering with the group and others for the America4America campaign. On Thursday, she detailed how the new voters would change the status quo.
"I've been on the ground in Alabama and in Arizona where laws are pushing our communities into the shadows. Campaigns are marginalizing us, leading many Americans feeling demoralized and defeated," she said. "[This] is a campaign to empower every single American voter with a truth about their own goal in our democracy. That's a role that is a right that is invaluable and it is a right that I'm fighting to protect and to promote."
As a 9-year-old growing up in Los Angeles, Ferrera said she has a distinct memory of her mother pulling her aside before she went to school one day.
"My mother said, 'Listen, someone may ask you what you are and where you are from. Don't let anyone scare you. You are an American,'" she recounted, adding that it wasn't OK for any American to feel intimidated because of their race.
Gonzalez, who is not seeking re-election, pointed out that 93 percent of the sub-18-year-old Latinos are American citizens.
"People are overlooking some of these numbers," he said.
Latino voters have been identified as a key demographic by both Republicans and Democrats and the presidential campaigns for President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney. The challenge for the GOP is that traditionally, Latinos have supported Democrats by a large margin. For Democrats, the struggle is to turn out the eligible voters--only 43 percent of Latinos who can vote are even registered. That's the lowest out of any racial demographic: 78 percent of non-Hispanic whites are registered; 67 percent of African-Americans; and 53 percent of Asian-Americans, according to Gonzalez.
Maria Teresa Kumar, president of Voto Latino, said the campaign website provides new voters with critical information about how to register and seeks to connect with young Latinos where they are--the Internet.
"Women, people of color, and youth that collectively are larger than the baby boomers and [they] are going to start carving the pathway to the new America that we all deeply believe in," she said.
Asked specifically about the issues that are important to her, Ferrera mentioned several hot-button topics that lawmakers are struggling to address.
"ID laws, immigration, and education, and the DREAM Act, and all the other issues that face every other American, that are important to our community, like access to healthcare and to be able to be citizens without fear," she said.
Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter.