A Democrat has carried Arizona only once in the last 64 years, but a massive Latino voter registration drive may turn this reliably red state, blue.
“Latino voters do turn out at a pretty good pace. What you are asking is, ‘if they turn out at an even greater pace could they make a difference?’ And the answer is absolutely!” says political analyst Paul Bentz of High Ground Consulting in Phoenix.
“I definitely believe Arizona is in play and Hillary has a good chance of winning it.”
The main reason why is a $6 million Latino voter registration drive funded by liberal, out-of-state foundations.
Over the last six years, a coalition of Latino advocacy groups known as One Arizona banded together to register hard to reach, disenfranchised Latino voters. The result – an increase of 300,000 new Latino voters – 154,000 in the last year.
“Our endgame was not to turn the state blue or keep it red,” said Alex Gomez with One Arizona. “Our endgame was to make sure our community started to set the agenda.”
To make that happen, volunteers knocked on 1 million doors and made another million phone calls. Teams combed through poor neighborhoods in south and west Phoenix to register new voters.
This week, volunteers like Tony Navarette followed up, to make sure they voted or to arrange transport so they could.
“Face to face with the voter is the most efficient way to get that family to vote,” he said.
Their effort is dramatically changing the statewide voter demographic, increasing the number of registered Latinos from 300,000 about 10 years ago to 710,000 today. They hope a record half a million Latinos will vote, that’s 20 percent of the votes cast, up 6 percent since 2008.
“For us, we are at a tipping point that came a lot sooner than expected because of all the people that we courted, that are out pounding pavement and we are not talking to the usual people,” said Gomez.
While One Arizona claims to be non-partisan, politically they’re not. Anti-Trump and Sheriff Joe Arpaio posters are everywhere, and the pro Clinton bias is obvious in the staff’s speech and working materials.
Their outreach effort began after Arizona adopted SB1070 in 2010, the measure that allowed state and city police to initiate the deportation process for undocumented immigrants with criminal convictions.
“Joe Arpaio is definitely a motivator, so is Donald Trump,” says Gomez.
Sensing an opportunity, the Clinton campaign recently dumped $2 million into T.V advertising in Arizona. Also in her favor here, a ballot proposition legalizing marijuana that could draw younger voters to the polls. Another proposal that will raise the minimum wage means union support.
But experts say the Latino vote is not monolithic, as evidenced by one new voter Navarette met while canvassing a Phoenix neighborhood.
“Do you want to be registered Republican, Democrat or other,” Navarette asked Eugene Vizzerra, who was out working on his broken down Chrysler 300 in the driveway.
“If I can be rich like the Republicans, I want to be one of them. So I’ll be a Republican,” Vizzerra said, although he admitted he would incur the wrath of his family for doing it.