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Latino Voter Advocates In NC Look To Georgia, Arizona As Models

A "Latinos for Biden-Harris" sign hangs on a building in Milwaukee during a get-out-the-vote effort.
Milwaukee Teachers Education Association via Flickr

Latino voters were a significant factor in electing President Joe Biden in the 2020 election.

A report by UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative showed that they helped flip two states — Arizona and Georgia — where they collectively make up about 80% of the nation’s Latino electorate, along with 11 other states.

Now, organizers here in North Carolina looking at those two states for inspiration on how to turn the Tar Heel State from red to blue in presidential elections moving forward.

Juan Miranda, the organizing director of "Siembra, NC" said he’s ready to see the outcome of Latinos and organizers fighting years of anti-immigrant rhetoric and racism in their communities when they go to the polls.

"For the past several elections and the reality is that in those two states, the actual impact that Latino vote had was the result of the amazing work, the organizing work that took place for years to mobilize those folks," he said.

The Latino population has been growing rapidly in North Carolina. In the past 30 years, the population grew from 75,000 in 1990 to almost 1 million today. The turnout for Latino voters was almost three-times higher than it was in 2016, according to Democracy NC.

Arizona was one of the biggest surprises of the 2020 election, as the historically red state flipped blue for Biden. And now for the first time since 1953, the state is sending two Democrats to the U.S. Senate.

Experts say migration can be a major factor in changing a state's political influence.

"People can work wherever their employer will allow them to, they don't necessarily have to be in one particular location," said Jason Husser, Elon University Political Science Professor and Director of the Elon Poll. "As companies move from expensive states to cheaper states and relocate workers, we're going to continue to see pretty big demographic shifts and those are going to have political impacts."

Vote Here sign
Credit Erik Hersman / Creative Commons
Creative Commons

Nationwide, Latinos supported Biden over former President Donald Trump by a margin of at least 2 to 1, and there was a 30.9% increase in Latino votes over the 2016 election.

Husser said North Carolina might not go blue for the next two to three election cycles but will still remain a purple state. He also said the state isn't losing residents as it's growing, but he said the growth is "asymmetric."

"The places that are growing tend to be urban counties or suburbs around those urban counties," he said. "The places that are planning to grow are those that are the rural areas, the traditional places where Republicans do well and are not likely to grow much over the next 10 years."

Some change is happening in historically conservative counties in North Carolina.

An hour west of Raleigh, in Alamance County, there’s been marches, protests, and clashes between progessive groups and white supremacists.

The county is also known for ICE raids, which target mostly undocumented Latinos. 

It's also the county where residents frequently protested over the summer to tear down a Confederate statue that sits in the city of Graham’s town square. And it’s the county where a peaceful march to the polls, just a few days before Election Day, led to the arrest and pepper spraying of dozens of activists.

Organizers say these protests are a result of changing demographics — and what could happen to the rest of the state. 

Latinos are only 3% of the state’s eligible voters, but North Carolina Hispanic Republican Coalition Board Member Cris Patino said as they grow, it's important to keep educating them about the political process. 

"Most of them are not very familiarized with what Democrats stand for and what Republicans stand for," he said. "They just know what they're told."

North Carolina is made up of many rural counties, with a majority of those counties voting for Donald Trump. Even with a Democratic governor, the state still holds on to conservative values.

"I’d love to see what we can accomplish as Latinos and how we can help this state accomplish," Patrino said. "Do I want to see North Carolina going blue or red? Time will tell. We'll see what the leadership does this these next couple years."

Over in Georgia, with shifting demographics in major counties throughout the state, Democrats successfully flipped formerly Republican seats at every level of government. Many of the Democratic winners are first-time candidates.

Miranda said now is the time to take remain hopeful and take inspiration from Georgia and start getting aggressive.

"We're going to continue expanding what we've been doing," he said. "A lot of our organizing happens in rural areas. So we're going to continue growing in those places by mobilizing folks around issues that affect them."

Naomi P. Brown joined WUNC in January 2017.
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