Groups knocked on 1 million doors, made 8 million calls to boost Latino turnout in Arizona
By: Rafael Carranza
TUCSON — More Latinos and voters from other communities of color showed up to the polls in Arizona during this year’s presidential election than ever before, with record-breaking turnout that heavily favored Democrats and helped tip the scales in turning the state blue for the first time in nearly three decades, a progressive coalition said Wednesday.
A week past the election, officials are still counting votes in parts of Arizona. But an early analysis of precinct-level data and demographics by the coalition showed that turnout among Latino voters — who make up one in four voters in Arizona — as well as Black and Native American voters in the state increased significantly this year, compared with past presidential elections.
Mi AZ, a coalition of five progressive community and advocacy organizations that led a massive field campaign statewide in Arizona by specifically targeting Latinos and other voters of color, released the findings of its early analysis Wednesday.
Among the highlights, nearly 73% of Latino voters in key Latino-majority precincts in Arizona chose President-elect Joe Biden over incumbent Republican President Donald Trump. In those precincts, Latino voter turnout rose by as much as 20 percentage points compared with 2016, according to Mi AZ.
That’s the equivalent of 37,000 additional votes for Biden, the coalition said. For comparison, fewer than 13,000 total votes separated Biden from Trump as of Wednesday in the ongoing counting of ballots in Arizona.
“I hope lessons learned, taken away from this election in 2020, is that in all of the places where you saw Latinos, people of color, young people show out and really do so much to bring home this win at the federal level, that folks realize that that is not something than can materialize with a cyclical investment,” said Laura Dent, the executive director of Chispa Arizona, an environmental justice organization is one of the five groups that form Mi AZ.
“It has to be long-term, and it has to be led by communities on the ground in order to be fruitful, sustainable and successful into the future,” Dent said.
1 million doors and 8 million calls
During a media call Wednesday, the coalition said the results from the presidential election in Arizona reflected the pivotal role that Latino voters were expected to play this year in deciding the winner.
But the call also addressed the longstanding work that community and advocacy organizations have done in Arizona over the past decade to boost participation by Latinos since the days of the controversial law Senate Bill 1070 and immigration raids by then-Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Members of the Mi AZ coalition include groups such as Living United for Change in Arizona, or LUCHA, which formed in the aftermath of SB 1070. Other members include Our Voice Our Vote, a Black-led group advocating for progressive policies; Mi Familia Vota, one of the country’s largest Latino voter engagement groups; and Case Action Arizona, an economic justice group focused on helping working families.
Since July, the coalition’s members clocked in nearly 8 million calls to potential voters in Arizona and knocked on more than 1.15 million doors in the lead up to the Nov. 3 election, using special protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Members described it as one of the largest grassroots movements in Arizona history.
The groups “are the ones that built the relationship with not only voters but the rest of the communities that had never received one door knock from a party, one mailer, one call to participate in an election,” said Alejandra Gomez of LUCHA.
“All of this was, I think, the perfect storm for our communities coming together and beginning to center all of our communities that had been really left out of the process, especially in Arizona,” she said.
What was the turnout for communities of color in Arizona?
Turnout among registered Latino voters in Arizona is projected to reach 50% this year, surpassing the previous record of 44% in 2016, according to Chris Brill, the data director for Arizona Wins, another progressive coalition that partnered with Mi AZ to compile the data released Wednesday.
Brill said other communities of color also broke records. More than 60% of African Americans registered to vote in Arizona showed up to the polls, besting the numbers from four years ago by 11%, he said. In addition, more than 53,000 Native Americans cast ballots from tribal areas in the state, a 25% percent increase compared to 2016, he added.
Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, the founder and co-executive director of Our Voice Our Vote and a state representative for the south Phoenix area, credited those gains to the coalition’s efforts to boost participation by creating a digital campaign to complement face-to-face outreach in the midst of a global pandemic.
“While we don’t discount anyone else’s contribution, the reality is that work that was put in by the Mi AZ group, we truly believe played the pivotal role in actually changing the outcome of what we’re seeing here in Arizona,” he said.
The end of elections doesn’t mean the work stops
As election officials finish counting ballots in the coming days, the groups in the Mi AZ coalition said their focus remained on the future, and exercising the political clout Latinos and voters of color in Arizona have started wielding as they become more engaged in the political system.
Beatriz Topete, a field worker for Case Action Arizona and a member of the hospitality union in Phoenix, said that meant returning their full attention to one of the biggest concerns that has been impacted working families in Arizona, the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Now we need to get back to pushing to get the coronavirus back under control and enhancing our unemployment health benefits, and also to have the right to return back to work when this pandemic is over,” she said.
Tomas Robles, the co-executive director of LUCHA, said the civic engagement efforts would continue, especially with Arizona poised to remain a battleground state in future elections.
“What we want voters to understand, especially Latino voters, is that you have power beyond elections,” he said. “Elections are a marker, but the real work begins after, when we need to ensure that we hold our elected officials accountable, ensure that they pass the policies that the voters that put them in office want to see.”