Underestimating Latina Voting Power In Arizona Is A Huge Mistake
Regina Romero grew up talking about justice and politics at the family dinner table in her hometown of Somerton, Arizona, which is only twelve miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. As the youngest of six siblings, the self-proclaimed “border girl” watched her immigrant farmer parents fight for worker’s rights and the Latinx community through involvement in labor unions and by emphasizing the importance of Mexican history.
“My mom, a devoted Mexican Catholic, would always talk about taking care of the poor even though we were super poor too,” Romero told Supermajority News. “They always made clear to us what was right and what was wrong.”
Now, Romero says the lessons she learned from her parents have shaped the politician she is today, and in 2019, she became the first Latina mayor of Tucson, Arizona.
Romero, who was both the first person to graduate from college and to vote in her family, says that she found her political voice by advocating for change in the Sonoran Desert, which spans both Arizona and Mexico and has been home to seven generations of her family.
“As women of color, our voices need to be here,” Romero said. “Now more than ever, we have to make sure that we are mobilizing and voting.”
Historic wins in Arizona, like Romero’s, suggest that this battleground state will play a crucial role in the upcoming presidential election. And some experts say that the key to winning Arizona lies in the hands of the Latinas who live there.
For the first time in history, Latinx voters are projected to be the nation’s largest racial minority in a presidential election, according to the Pew Research Center. Hispanic voters in Arizona make up nearly a third of Arizona’s population, and are expected to comprise nearly a quarter of votes in the state for the presidential election. Even more specifically, Latina women in Arizona are expected to lead this large voter turnout based on their consistent presence at the polls over the years.
“Culturally, Latina women and our mothers have been playing a key role of ensuring that we are getting the best results in every aspect of our lives,” said Eduardo Sainz, the Arizona state director of the grassroots civic engagement organization Mi Familia Vota. “They are the way that our community has continued to drive and feel empowered.”
Mi Familia Vota has registered a record number of Latina voters in Arizona. But beyond registration, the key to encouraging even more Latinas to vote is for politicians and presidential candidates to listen to their concerns, Sainz told Supermajority News.
Some Hispanic women in the state say that it’s hard to recognize their voting power due to campaigns that they feel overlook or misrepresent them.
“We aren’t taken seriously and we aren’t respected,” Maricopa County native and first-time voter in the upcoming presidential election Aryanna Diaz told Supermajority News. “Our only roles have been limited to stereotypes.”
Underestimating this group in the coming presidential election could be a “big mistake” for either presidential candidate according to Irasema Coronado, the director of Transborder Studies at Arizona State University (ASU).
“I want politicians to understand that this is not a homogeneous group of people,” Coronado told Supermajority News. She cited the example of bilingual advertisements in Arizona that both presidential nominees have boasted about in a transparent attempt to win over Latinx voters. The political science professor says that this strategy simply isn’t enough.
“If you advertise in Spanish, that doesn’t mean that you’re going to target everybody because not everyone speaks, reads, or understands Spanish,” she said regarding Latinx Arizonians.
Coronado’s colleague at ASU, fellow political science professor Lisa Magaña, agreed, adding that negative stereotypes about Latina women exclude them from many important political conversations.
“We hear these things that talk about suburban women and forget that Latina women are suburban women too,” Magaña said. “This idea of opening up the economy and education is a Latina mother’s issue as well.”
Although mobilizing voters may look different this year as the state manages one of the worst outbreaks of COVID-19 in the country, Magaña said that ensuring accessibility for all Latinx voters in Arizona through accommodations such as mail-in voting could be beneficial for a successful campaign. She also said that candidates should lead with transparent messages on what they will do to support, represent, and uplift the Latinx community as well.
Should the Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden successfully do this, 2020 could be the first year in three decades that the state shifts its presidential party voting history. So the question is: Will Arizona’s 11 electoral votes remain with the Republican party?
The answer lies with Latina women. It may be up to them.