Latinos will break participation records in next year's presidential election, according to a study released Thursday by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund.

The report, presented during NALEO's annual conference, held this year in San Antonio, is a projection crafted using participation data from the last four presidential elections.

About 9.7 million Hispanics cast ballots in the November 2008 election that brought Barack Obama to the White House, compared with 7.6 million who did so in 2004, the study notes.

That participation is increasing and according to the report's projections this will be reflected in the 2012 election, when the Latino vote is anticipated to increase by 26 percent to 12.2 million voters, or 8.7 percent of the country's total.

According to Census Bureau data from the past presidential election, 206 million people had the right to vote, but only 131 million cast ballots.

The forecasts are that California, Florida and Illinois will be the states that will register the greatest increases in Hispanic turnout compared to 2008, above 30 percent, while in California, New Mexico and Texas at least one in every five voters will be Latino.

"Latinos continue to reshape the nation's political map, and the Latino electorate will play a decisive role in Election 2012," according to Arturo Vargas, executive director of the NALEO Educational Fund.

However, he warned about the need for Latinos, who are the country's largest and fastest-growing minority, to make a greater commitment to the electoral process.

"While the Latino vote continues to increase with each Presidential election, much work needs to be done to fully engage Latinos in our country's electoral process," said Vargas in a communique.

In 2008, 19.5 million Latinos were eligible to vote, but only half that number did so, either because they didn't register or because they didn't go to the polls.

NALEO identified several trends that will influence the participation of the Latino vote, including the dialogue among the candidates on matters that are important to that community like the economy, health care, immigration and education.

The impact of the participation of Hispanic young people will be another key element in the upcoming election.

Between 2004 and 2008, turnout among Latinos in the 18-24 age group who were eligible to vote increased from 33 percent to 39 percent.

NALEO said that 54 percent of naturalized Latinos voted in 2008, compared with 48 percent of U.S.-born Hispanics.

"Both presidential candidates and political parties must actively work to engage Latino voters and address the issues they care about," Vargas said.

The Census Bureau said in March that there were 50.5 million Hispanics in the United States in 2010 - that equates to one in every six Americans - and they contributed to more than half the country's population growth.

"Latinos played a key role in the 2008 election; they will determine who is sworn in on January 20, 2013," Vargas insists.