Big push under way for Latino turnout in battleground Arizona

By Mimi Dwyer

PHOENIX (Reuters) — When a brass band, mariachi musicians and a folk dancer wearing a dress embroidered TU VOTO CUENTA — “your vote counts” — paraded through her West Phoenix neighborhood, Marizol Moreno, who had never before voted in a presidential election, came outside in her pajamas to watch.

Moreno, who was born in California, had never been interested in politics, feeling both parties worked for people wealthier than her family. “I feel like my vote won’t count,” she said. But after her husband, father and several family members got coronavirus, she thought she needed to get more involved.

Moreno, enthused by the voter outreach parade, planned to vote at her daughter’s school on Tuesday, probably for Joe Biden, because she wants a change.

People like Moreno are exactly whom community organizers were trying to reach in the election’s final stretch in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and its suburbs.

“The whole thing is designed to get people who normally wouldn’t be outside of their homes to come out and engage,” said Tomas Robles, co-executive director of Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA), as he carried a cooler at the tail end of Saturday’s parade. “You’re engaging with someone who’s never been talked to about voting.”

Results in Arizona hinge on Maricopa County, the fourth most-populous county in the nation with 4.5 million residents, including 1.4 million Hispanics. The county voted narrowly for Donald Trump in 2016. But its demographics and politics have shifted the past four years. Democratic nominee Joe Biden was leading Trump 49% to 47% in Arizona in a Reuters Ipsos poll conducted Oct. 27-Nov 1.

Arizona’s 11 electoral votes could be key to Biden’s path to victory, and Democratic strategists hope higher Latino turnout will help shift the state in his favor.


Maricopans have participated in record numbers so far in early voting. By the weekend before Election Day, the county had processed 1.66 million ballots, surpassing the 1.6 million total cast in the 2016 election, said Megan Gilbertson, communications director for the Maricopa County Elections Department.

It won’t be clear whom those ballots were cast for until 8 p.m. on Tuesday, when the county starts posting results. But the county has inched leftward in recent years.

While Maricopa gave most of its votes to Trump in 2016, it ejected Republican Sheriff Joe Arpaio, an immigration hardliner whom Trump pardoned for ignoring a court order to stop racially profiling Latinos. The county has since helped elect people like Krysten Sinema, the first Democratic Arizona senator in three decades, to national office.

Arizona’s historically harsh treatment of immigrants and passage of legislation like SB1070, a 2010 law that codified several anti-immigrant measures, fostered strong community organizing roots that activists hope will pay off in this election.

“This is the first time that I feel like the election is actually being run by those of us who fought 10 years ago,” said Luis Avila, a longtime community activist, after wrapping up the final episode of the weekly Spanish-language call-in show about voting he has hosted on 107.5 FM La Onda.

People have been calling for months to ask about how and when to vote. They also talk about social media misinformation discouraging them from voting by falsely claiming it could put their undocumented family members at risk, he said.

If the state flips to support Biden, Avila said, it will be because of those grassroots efforts. “This is not a victory for Biden,” he said. “This is a victory for the communities that fought really hard to contact voters.”


Creosote Partners is an Arizona firm focused on legislative advocacy, coalition building, and strategic communications.

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Creosote Partners

Creosote Partners is an Arizona firm focused on legislative advocacy, coalition building, and strategic communications.