Successful Democratic engagement efforts with the Latino community in Arizona that helped the state swing away from the Republican Party are a successful model that can be replicated elsewhere in the US in future elections, according to political experts.
In November, the historically Republican Arizona was narrowly won by Joe Biden by a margin of less than 11,000 votes. The last time Arizona swung towards the Democrats was in 1996.
Additionally, Arizona sent two Democrats to the Senate for the first time in nearly seven decades following the ouster of Republican Martha McSally by Democrat Mark Kelly.
According to statistics from the University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA) Latino Policy & Politics Initiative, there were approximately 809,000 Latino registered voters, representing just over 25% of all registered voters in the state.
"Latino voters in precincts with a greater concentration of Latino registered voters overwhelmingly voted in support of Joe Biden, while those in precincts with lower concentrations of Latino registered voters generally support Donald Trump," the report noted.
In an interview with local media earlier in March, Chuck Rocha -a longtime Democratic Party strategy and founder of Nuestro PAC, an organization aimed at increasing Latino participation in 2020- said that months of advance work by grassroot organizations made the difference in the election.
"[Democrats] built a multiyear-long program. Republicans waited until the last 30 day" to start running Spanish-language ads he was quoted as saying by the AZ Mirror newspaper.
Even before the election, Latino-focused organizations in Arizona were working with the community members to rally them on a variety of issues, including the controversial SB1070 law that mandated that law enforcement officers attempt to determine immigration status when they stopped people.
"You had a nirvana of Latinos, on the ground, self-organizing and fully funded starting years in advance," Rocha said.
In an interview with LPO, Junelle Cavero Harnal, a former advisor to Bernie Sanders and Head of Political at H Code, the largest Hispanic digital media company in the US, said that these engagement efforts led to Latinos being "very" involved in this election cycle in Arizona, compared to previous years.
In the case of Arizona, she added, lawmakers had attempted to move polling locations that were located in heavily Latino or minority areas of the state "making it more difficult for Latinos and minorities to vote."
"As a response, you had legislation go back and forth. Today, you have Latino driven organizations working to fight voter suppression. Last year, other organizations invested in these groups," Harnal said. "They've been able to reach out to more voters properly and in a more authentic way."
Another important factor, Harnal added, was the increasing representation of Latinos and other minority groups - as well as women - in local politics.
"Ten years ago, there were a small number of Latinos and women elected to office in the state of Arizona. If you look at the legislature today, the majority are women, or people of color," she said. "The combined growth of diverse leadership, organizations reaching more communities of color, and folks investing in these types of groups, have created an environment to move the Latino vote."
Overall, UCLA statistics show that approximately 16.6 million Latino voters cast ballots in the 2020 elections nationally, a 30.9% increase from 2016. This marked the single largest 4-year increase in the Latino vote in American history.
In some heavily Latino states - including Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and New York - Biden won by a nearly 3 to 1 margin.
In Texas, Georgia, and Florida (outside of the greater Miami area) Latinos chose Biden by a 2 to 1 margin.
Harnal said that the success of Democratic engagement efforts with the Latino community in Arizona can "absolutely" be replicated elsewhere in the United States."
"There is an opportunity in places like Florida, New York, Texas," she said. "A diverse legislature proves that there is a community that is willing and wanting to elect minorities into office. To address voter suppression, communities must feel that there vote is welcomed and makes a difference."
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