Will this downward trend impact the number of Latinos who will vote in swing-state Florida in November?
As the COVID-19 outbreak eliminated the face-to face techniques traditionally used to register new voters before an election, such as door-to-door canvassing or sending out volunteers to political rallies, in March and early April new registrations plummeted in many states compared with the same period in 2016, according to new data published in The Atlantic.
According to the study, in several states, including Texas, North Carolina, Maryland, Missouri, Virginia, and Kansas, the numbers fell by about 50 percent. “Registration will almost certainly be diminished, potentially by millions of voters,” said Tom Bonier, the CEO of TargetSmart, the Democratic voter-targeting firm that conducted the analysis.
Will this downward trend affect the number of Latinos voting in November? This is an important question, because with so much at stake for Latinos in the upcoming presidential election — from economic security and immigration reform to the future of DACA — advocates for Latino communities say that now, more than ever, it is important to show up at the polls in the general election.
This is especially true for Florida. And not only because of its swing-state status, but because the Sunshine State is worth a total of 29 electoral votes, more than any other traditional swing state.
“That is enough to tip the scales of a presidential outcome. Historically [Florida] has wavered between being a red and blue state,” says Esteban Garcés, a spokesperson from Poder Latinx, a nonprofit organization that works to empower Latinos in the U.S. and help the estimated 58.9 million strong community play a key role in the transformation of the country.
But as Garcés told The Americano, face to face voter registration is not the same after Covid19. Although voter registration advocates see spikes of interest in voter registration during election years, “coronavirus put a damper not only on our efforts, but also on the efforts of many organizations in Florida working to register our community to vote.”
So in response to the limitations imposed by the pandemic, several voting rights organizations, including Poder Latinx, are resorting to remote canvassing.
“There are numerous phone banks and texting efforts actively happening in Florida to ensure our community is participating in the 2020 election. We are no longer limited to physical distance when reaching out to voters. What this means is our voter outreach program has grown to include just about every Latinx voter in Florida with a cellphone. We [are] virtually everywhere.”
Still, despite the increased push to register voters remotely, at this time the results appear to be mixed.
“Things have slowed some, but if the worries and dangers of coronavirus subside, Florida will see an increase in the number of field organizers and canvassers back out in the community ensuring that our community is aware of the election and is primed to participate. If we want better, we need to do better, we need to vote. Votar es poder.”
Central Florida a Main Player
According to Garcés, the key demographic of those registering to vote at this time is Puerto Rican across the board — young, middle-aged and older. In fact, in one Central Florida county, Puerto Ricans accounted for 51% of Poder Latinx’s voter registration numbers. And Garces believes that this may be enough to tip the scales in the state. “Central Florida is likely to determine how the entire state goes,” he says.