Latino Vote

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Raquel Terán, state director for Mi Familia Vota, and Tomas Robles, director for the Arizona Center for Empowerment, discuss what is being done to increase Latino voter turnout for the upcoming primary and general elections.

Jose Cardenas: Good evening. I'm Jose Cardenas. We'll talk about what a coalition of Latino voting groups is doing to get voters to the polls for the primary and general elections. Plus a unique dish combining flavors from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. And how Latino families can invest in clean energy. All coming up on Horizonte. Funding for Horizonte is made possible by the contributions from friends of, members of your PBS station. with the primary less than one week away a coalition of Latino groups statewide is adopting new tactics to try to get Latino voters to the polls. Joining me to talk about the efforts are Raquel Teran, state director with Mi Familia Vota, and Tomas Robles, volunteer for school outreach with the Arizona center for empowerment. The coalition, tell us the name.

Raquel Teran: when Arizona grew out of the -- SB in when we realized we had legislation and we did not have enough political power to get people who represented our values and interests in office. So organizations came together and decided to coordinate and strategize and build an infrastructure to build Latino power. So then we have been the Latino community where there's high density number of Latinos, registering people to vote. We made sure that they are on the permanent early voting list and we make sure that they come out to vote in the elections.

Jose Cardenas: so a number of the organizations have other things that are their principal focus but they are involved in this effort. Your organization, Mi Familia Vota --

Raquel Teran: Voting is what it's all about. We engaged our communities, making sure that they become citizens. We ensure that they are registered to vote and they are in the early permanent voting list and get them out to vote. Not only do we ensure the new citizens get out to vote we reach out to Latinos across the state, largely in Maricopa County and Pima County but we're also reaching through the phone banking or through mail to make sure that everybody is educated on the decision making process.

Jose Cardenas: Tomas, you're the director of one of the organizations with a broader focus but is focused now on voting, the Arizona center for empowerment.

Tomas Robles: Two major factors we focus on is the community development and along with electoral work that we do at we're one Arizona. A lot of our programs are gauged to develop our community professionally through our programs and also youth. One of the major reasons we're doing both at the same time is high school voter outreach program through a partnership with Phoenix high school district.

Jose Cardenas: What are the specifics?

Tomas Robles: The high school resolution that we passed incorporates bringing curriculum to the high schools about the importance of voting but not just voting in general but voting in local elections and how that impacts each individual community along with that we bring twice year focus on strictly voter registration for high school seniors. This is the inaugural year where when will in coordination with national voter registration day we will hold a one-week event with each high school to engage all of the high school seniors and get them registered to vote.

Jose Cardenas: So, those would be students or older.

Tomas Robles: the ones who will be by the time the election starts.

Jose Cardenas: Tomas, talked about one of the new things going on. What else are you doing that's different?

Raquel Teran: We continue to knock on doors. We feel that the best way to reach voters is to have a personal relationship. So not only the volunteers but our staff go every afternoon knocking on doors, building that relationship, getting people to sign the commitment card to commit to vote in the November election. We ensure that they let us know what are the issues that they care about because that way we can organize around the issues the community is letting us know, so people are feeling empowered and owning that vote even more.

Jose Cardenas: You mentioned --

Tomas Robles: I'm sorry, we have also expanded our not only who we reach out to but expanded our messaging in terms of how we're talking about -- this is a way of empowering yourself to the community. By focusing on voting and on the community that votes elected officials will recognize those communities that have oftentimes been forgotten. Our messaging, I'm sorry, our expansion is in the electorate. We expanded from just Latinos but young people and single women and single mothers. We expanded our reach to reach a much broader base of voters that have been forgotten about at times.

Jose Cardenas: So Raquel mentioned the November election. That's the real focus here, not so much the primary but getting people to vote in November. Why is that?

Tomas Robles: The primary can sometimes be short-sighted in terms of what the states needs as a whole. Yes, there are important primary races in which that particular race will decide a winner even through the general, but many of our state races are going to be decided in the general election. The more voter participation we have in these general elections the better chance we have of having a representative that represents all residents of Arizona, not just a select few who vote. Our goal is to make sure they understand the general election is where they can effect great change, especially this year with changes at governor and other state races.

Jose Cardenas: Raquel, just a week ago the Arizona Republic ran a several page article about the Latino vote. Why despite all the efforts of organizations like yours, it doesn't seem to make a difference. The vote has been disappointing in terms of the number of people who turn out even in the wake of SB.

Raquel Teran: Well, We have seen the Latino vote come out in big numbers in local elections, for example we have a new face to the city council of Phoenix. That is due a lot to the Latino vote. To the early voting, to the efforts that our organization has had knocking on doors ensuring Latinos vote in local elections. We have made an effort not only to highlight the gem elections but also local elections and we have seen the number grow. We have more than half a million Latinos registered to vote. We have,262,000 Latinos on the permanent early voting list. We are continuing to engage these Latinos. We may not see the results necessarily even in this year, but we are seeing how that it's going to be inevitable to have a Latino vote to win a statewide election. It's going to come because we're going to continue to build on the infrastructure that we have right now.

Tomas Robles: Sometimes expectation is that they will go from low to max participation in one election cycle. What's been important is we have been increasing the clout amongst Latinos and their vote. One Arizona since it began has put over, people on the payroll, , voters have been registered because of one Arizona. These are efforts that while may not have a huge chunk nationally or may not be the turn around we hoped for but it's increasing every year of the every year we are creating a culture of voters that four years ago never would have thought about voting as a way to empower themselves in the community.

Jose Cardenas: So right now though to date, in this campaign cycle what have you seen that you find encouraging in terms of thinking there will be more Latinos voting this time around?

Tomas Robles: We have seen a lot of Latino candidates win elections. People are seeing more individuals that they can see can represent them. They have had victories. More candidates that appeal to a Latino base. Our organization and one Arizona are talking about issues that are important not just immigration but education in Arizona, tuition cost, raising the minimum wage to a larger living wage. We're really gathering the stories of our voters to really use their concerns as a method to get them to the polls.

Raquel Teran: The conversations we have at the door people are committed to voting. They know that they need to vote. We have heard the voters mature. people were calling us and asking us who to vote for. We could not direct people on who to vote for. Our job is to educate the voters. It's a nonpartisan effort. However calls and conversations we're having with voters it's much more about education. For example we have the ballot that's in the yellow color that makes it easier to identify so people know they receive their ballots, they have it on hand. They are voting with their families. They are having conversations with friends, they're questioning why does my party or the ballot that I received, why doesn't it have all the candidates. The questions are starting to differ rather than I know that I need to vote. Who do I need to vote for to have those conversations with their families and friends.

Jose Cardenas: Sounds like you're both optimistic. We'll see soon what the results are. Thank you both for joining us.

Raquel Teran: Thank you.

Tomas Robles: Thank you.

Raquel Terán:State Director, Mi Familia Vota; Tomas Robles:Director, Arizona Center for Empowerment;


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