Arizona leads nation in early-voting surge by Latinos
Vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine will be trying to sway Hispanic voters, but many have already cast their ballots
Daniel Gonzalez | November 3, 2016
Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine will deliver a campaign speech entirely in Spanish in Phoenix on Thursday in hopes of helping Hillary Clinton win Arizona by appealing to Latino voters.
But many Latinos have already voted in Arizona, which has seen the largest increase of early voting by Latinos of any state.
As of Oct. 30, nine days before the Nov. 8 election, 13 percent of the early ballots cast in Arizona came from Latino voters, up from 11 percent at the same point prior to the 2012 presidential election and from 8 percent in 2008.
The increase from 2012 to 2016 is the largest increase in early voting by Latinos in any state, according to statistics compiled by Catalist, a data company that works with progressive candidates and groups.
Nevada and Colorado have had the second- and third-largest increases in Latino early voting, according to the Catalist data, based on 37 states that have reported early-voting results.
Data tabulated by Arizona's Democratic Party showed an even bigger increase in early voting by Latinos in Arizona, from 6.2 percent in 2012 to nearly 12 percent through Nov. 1. The data is based on Hispanic surnames.
Catalist calculates early Latino voting data with a computer modeling formula based on Hispanic surnames, census data, and other variables.
More than a third in Arizona have voted early
More than 1.37 million early ballots already have been returned, out of 2.3 million sent out, according to the Arizona Secretary of State's office. That means more than 178,000 Latinos in Arizona have already voted. There are 3.5 million registered voters in the state, which means more than a third voted early.
Those votes were cast before Hillary Clinton's latest email controversy. On Friday, FBI Director James Comey sent a letter to Congress stating newly discovered emails in a separate investigation involving former congressman Anthony Weiner could be related to a closed investigation into Clinton's private email server.
Jose Mejia, a 24-year-old pharmacy technician from Phoenix returned his ballot on Sept. 14, the day after he received the ballot in the mail. He said he had already made up his mind
The independent voted for Hillary Clinton.
He believes she is better qualified than Donald Trump, the Republican nominee. He said he also found Trump's comments about immigrants offensive and said he does not have the temperament to be president.
Mejia chalked up Clinton's latest email controversy to politics. It would not have changed his vote, he said.
Latino surge no surprise
The increase in early Latino voting is not surprising given efforts to boost the overall Hispanic voter turnout in Arizona by encouraging early voting, said Joseph Garcia, director of the Morrison Latino Public Policy Center at Arizona State University.
"There has been a large push by many Latino groups to vote by early ballot by mail to avoid any hassles at the ballot box in presenting ID and Latinos under extra scrutiny at the polls," Garcia said.
There also are not a lot of undecided Latino voters, many of whom have been turned off by Donald Trump's harsh comments about Mexicans and immigrants, Garcia said.
“There has been a large push by many Latino groups to vote by early ballot by mail to avoid any hassles at the ballot box in presenting ID and Latinos under extra scrutiny at the polls.”
– Joseph Garcia, director of the Morrison Latino Public Policy Center at Arizona State University
A larger voter turnout by Latino voters, who polls show overwhelmingly favor Hillary Clinton, could help the Democratic nominee win Arizona, which a Democratic presidential candidate hasn't won since Bill Clinton in 1996.
Hillary Clinton was in Tempe on Wednesday for an early-vote rally at Arizona State University.
Kaine honed Spanish skills in Honduras
Kaine, Clinton's running mate, will give a campaign speech at 2 p.m. at the Maryvale Community Center on the west side of Phoenix, an area with a large population of Mexican and Guatemalan immigrants.
“Latino voters are more sophisticated than to be persuade by symbolic gestures. There are issues that are important to Latino voters that includes the state of the economy, immigration issues, civil-rights issues and others.”
– Edward Escobar, a professor at Arizona State University's School of Transborder Studies
The U.S. senator from Virginia honed his Spanish skills living in Honduras in his 20s working as a Catholic missionary.
His speech in Phoenix is being billed as the first time a speech has been given entirely in Spanish during a campaign rally for a U.S. presidential candidate.
Politicians have been catering to Latino voters for years, said Edward Escobar, a professor at Arizona State University's School of Transborder Studies.
Giving a speech in Spanish may appeal to some Latino voters, he said.
"I think the fact that (Kaine) has spent time in Latin America and has exhibited a certain amount of empathy for Latinos and Latino issues is the most important thing he can convey and speaking in Spanish might be beneficial in that regard to reach voters who might not be as comfortable in English," Escobar said.
But ultimately Latino voters are more interested not in hearing a candidate speak Spanish, but their stance on issues that appeal to them, he said.
"Latino voters are more sophisticated than to be persuade by symbolic gestures," Escobar said. "There are issues that are important to Latino voters that includes the state of the economy, immigration issues, civil-rights issues and others."
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