In Arizona, the population is about 30 percent Hispanic, but only 23.4 percent of eligible voters are Hispanic, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center. This means about 1.1 million Hispanics in Arizona are now eligible to vote, a huge increase from the 992,000 who were eligible in the 2016 election.
For several reasons, Arizona Democrats believe that this increase in Hispanic populations will lead to victories for their party in November.
Among factors they are looking at are the favorable demographics and bad feelings caused by President Donald Trump’s harsh rhetoric on immigration.
The key, they say, is to mobilize for higher turnout among Latino voters on Election Day. If they do that they will follow the model that brought success in Colorado and Nevada. In those states there were long-term investments in voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives for Latinos. Those efforts paid off for Democrats with victories in 2016.
Trump won Arizona by less than 4 percentage points in 2016, a big drop from Mitt Romney’s 9-point victory in 2012. This showed Democrats that they were doing the right things, and they are on the right track.
“In 2016 you had huge enthusiasm among Latinos in coming out and voting for Hillary Clinton,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.). He said that Democrats won the Hispanic vote but Clinton did poorly among white women.
“The same scenario is set up in 2018 — you’re going to have high Latino turnout with high intensity,” he said. “The question is: What’s going to happen to the rest of the coalition?”
Democrats’ good performance in Arizona in 2016 has led to greater investment in voter registration efforts.
Mi Familia Vota, a national grassroots organization that registers Hispanic voters, added more than 80,000 voter registrations this year. Arizona is one of their main areas of emphasis.
Not only that, but Trump’s rhetoric and behavior on immigration has also helped mobilize Latinos, according to Democrats. They have been critical of the president’s draconian immigration policies which have included a push to build a border wall and a “zero tolerance” policy for undocumented immigrants. This policy has been cheered by Republicans but has resulted in the separation of thousands of migrant children from their parents which led to global condemnation.
In 2010 Arizona passed an immigration law that was very severe and made it a crime to not carry legal identification. This has caused a backlash among Hispanic voters as well.
Arizona is also where now-former Sheriff Joe Arpaio implemented his aggressive immigration enforcement tactics.
Republicans say Democrats are using scare tactics about the president’s record to motivate Latinos.
“Democrats feel that they have this pathway to turn Arizona at the very least purple, if not blue. They probably look at us as the next Colorado,” said state Rep. TJ Shope (R), a Mexican-American who’s Speaker Pro Tempore of the Arizona House. “They view Latinos as something that can be used to get there.”
Republicans believe they can win over Latino voters by promoting Trump’s economic record rather than his remarks on immigration, race relations and women’s issues.
Many people believe that an economic argument will work for the GOP in Arizona.
Arizona has been mostly overlooked by national Democrats. But this changed before the 2016 election, and now it is a primary target.
Some Latinos have responded to the GOP’s economic message but Republican approval numbers are stuck in the low twenties among Hispanics.
A survey released Thursday by polling firm Latino Decisions and Arizona State University showed that 21 percent of the state’s Hispanics consider themselves Republicans.
“We’ve been dealing with the President Trumps of Arizona for years,” said Gallego. “The numbers have dropped as low as they can get because we’ve been down this road for decades now.”
“The public opinion of Republicans among Latinos in Arizona is basically mud now,” he added.
This means that if they can truly motivate high turnout among Latino voters, Democrats may be in a position to turn Arizona blue.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.