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How Will Latino Voters Affect The Election?

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(AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

In this Feb. 26, 2020 file photo, using both the English and Spanish language, a sign points potential voters to an official polling location during early voting in Dallas.

Candidates for the upcoming election are vying for every vote available, and there may be no voter group more coveted than the Latinos and Hispanics.

In Nevada, they represent 24 percent of eligible voters, the biggest minority voting block in the state, and those votes may be up for grabs. 

While Latinos and Hispanics lean Democrat, polls indicate that between a fourth and nearly a third of them still support Republican Donald Trump despite his zero-tolerance policy against undocumented immigrants. 

That could put Nevada, which has gone blue in the last few elections, in play for the president.

So what issues matter most to this rapidly growing -- and very ideologically diverse -- electorate? 

Fernando Romero is the president of Hispanics in Politics. He told KNPR's State of Nevada that historically Latinos and Hispanics have leaned Democratic but the abortion issue has also pushed many to the Republican ticket.
 
However, President Donald Trump's comments about white supremacy during Tuesday night's debate may change that dynamic.
 
"I don't know if yesterday's debate after the fact that the president would not, in any way shape or form, give us any indication as to him rejecting the far-right, if you will, the 'stand back, stand by' comment will open eyes and may have persuaded those that are on the border, as far as for whom to vote, will probably lean Democrat," he said.
 
Overall, Romero believes Democrat Joe Biden has paid more attention to the Latino community, during this election cycle.
 
He believes the president, on the other hand, changes his stance depending on where he is.
 
"The president, I think, depends on to whom he's talking, what the valley looks like, and where the venue may be as to where he stands on Latino issues," he said.
 
Romero also noted that a new ad by the Trump campaign again brings up the idea that undocumented immigrants are taking away jobs.
 
For Romero, this year's election is about freedom and preserving the Constitution, which he believes is being torn apart. 
 

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"We are casting all rights aside and it's very important that we look at that and weigh the consequences of it becoming even worse," he said.

Yvonna Cancela is a Democratic state senator from Las Vegas. She believes the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic will be a big issue for Latino voters this November.

She noted that Latinos are three times more likely than white Americans to get the virus and many more Latinos work in the industries hardest hit by the outbreak.

"When we talk about COVID-19 and the Latino communities, we're not just talking about contracting the virus, we're talking about lives lost, we're talking about jobs lost and a dramatic change in what daily life looks like for Latino families and all other families in this country," she said.

The federal response to the pandemic also ties into concerns about health care, Cancela said.

She said the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has grown access to affordable health care for many Americans, but she said the Trump administration is trying to undermine the law. 

"Today, as people are faced with making the decisions of whether or not they should go back to work and put themselves at risk, whether or not they can go see a doctor, whether or not if they get sick with COVID or any other ailment that they will go bankrupt, of course, they're thinking about what kinds of policies are in place to protect them," she said.

A challenge to Obamacare, brought by the Trump administration, is being considered by the Supreme Court. It is that case that Cancela believes is a bigger concern to people watching the nomination of a new High Court justice than a challenge to abortion rights established by Roe vs. Wade.

While political pundits say both campaigns are courting the Latino vote, Peter Guzman, president of the Latin Chamber of Commerce, believes they're really not.

He said he has talked to Spanish-speaking media outlets in Las Vegas and they tell him they're not getting many ads from either campaign. He believes that's because the Latino vote is being taken for granted and that is a huge mistake.

“Nevada is in play. And the reason it’s in play is because Latino entrepreneurs are very smart," Guzman said, "They are paying attention. They remember Obama deported a lot of Mexicans. They understand Obama didn’t fix immigration. They understand that Trump has caged Latinos at the border. They understand this.”

He said there is a large section of the Latino community in Las Vegas who are entrepreneurs and who were doing very well before the pandemic. 

“They are going to vote, at the end of the day, they’re going to vote for the person that they believe gives them the best chance at a dignified life and owning their own business,” he said.

Guzman is actually "shocked" by the number of Latino entrepreneurs who have told him they are planning on voting for Trump. He doesn't believe they are leaning towards Trump because of who is as a person. Instead, he thinks it's because they believe the president will do a good job with the economy and help them build their businesses.

“You can’t underestimate that what is also going to be in play is the fact of confidence in running an economy, being able to create environments entrepreneurs and business people can succeed,” he said.

While the president could have used the stellar economy as counter-point to some of the harsh criticism of his immigration policies to win the Latino vote before the pandemic, John P. Tuman, a professor of political science and associate dean at UNLV, told KNPR's State of Nevada that may not be the case now.

“That claim can no longer be made as a result of the economic fallout and dislocation as a result of the pandemic,” he said.

He said that a recent poll by Latino Decisions and Univision shows just how important the response to the virus has been to the Latino community.

“The top ranked issue in that poll was responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and the second issue was addressing the cost of health care and then improving wages and unemployment were tied – respectively – for third place,” he said.

Tuman said the pandemic is seen as both a health care disparity issue and an economic issue, because before the pandemic, Asians and Hispanics were the largest ethnic groups in gaming and hospitality, which put them at higher risk for unemployment when the pandemic hit.

“The lackluster response, the federal response, to COVID is probably making that a salient issue,“ he said.

Tuman noted, like immigration, the federal response to the virus resonates personally with people in the Latino community.

RESOURCES:

Clark County Election Department - Spanish

Secretary of State Election Department

 

Guests

Fernando Romero, president, Hispanics in Politics; Yvonna Cancela, state senator; Peter Guzman, president, Latin Chamber of Commerce; John P. Tuman, professor and associate dean, UNLV.

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