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The biggest spike in election searches Tuesday was for “dónde votar”

It’s Spanish for “where to vote” — raising hopes about Latino turnout.

A bilingual voting sign in Florida in November 2018.
A bilingual voting sign in Florida in November 2018.
Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images
Emily Stewart covers business and economics for Vox and writes the newsletter The Big Squeeze, examining the ways ordinary people are being squeezed under capitalism. Before joining Vox, she worked for TheStreet.

The top-trending search in the United States on Election Day 2018 is where to vote — in Spanish: “dónde votar.”

Google said as the midterm elections were underway on Tuesday that searches of where to vote in Spanish surged by 3,350 percent, making it the top trending search on the platform. For comparison, searches for “who to vote for today” spiked by 1,350 percent, and “voter turnout today” jumped 450 percent.

Google’s data measures the percent increase, not the total number of times the terms are searched. There are still far more searches for “where to vote” than “dónde votar” nationally, and more searches for just “voting” than for either. But it’s the Spanish term that’s seen the biggest growth, possibly signaling a surge in interest among Spanish-speaking voters.

A Pew report released last month found that half of Latinos said that their situations had worsened over the past year, compared to 32 percent in the weeks after the 2016 election. About six in 10 registered Latino voters said they were more enthusiastic to vote in 2018 compared to the last congressional elections.

As Vox’s Li Zhou reported, Democrats were banking on Latino voters to help defeat Trump in 2016, given Trump’s comments about the group, including calling Mexicans rapists and drug dealers and saying a judge with Mexican heritage couldn’t treat him fairly. But it didn’t turn out as many expected: Latino voters still voted at lower rates than white, African-American, and Asian voters.

“If Democrats assume that they can expect higher voter turnout based on feelings of political threat or angst without investing in voter mobilization, this will likely lead to disappointing electoral participation,” Ricardo Ramirez, a Notre Dame political science professor, told Zhou.

Early voting this year suggests minority turnout will be high, but it’s also likely to be high among white voters. Moreover, not all Latino voters are Democrats; many are conservative as well.

More than 29 million Latinos are eligible to vote in 2018, and they make up nearly 13 percent of all eligible voters. Their votes could be pivotal in a number of races this year, including Democratic candidate Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s campaign against Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas.

Turning out the Latino vote in bigger numbers has been a long-held goal for Democrats, and hopes have been high that an expected surge will finally deliver.

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