Jessica, Claudia, Norma Y Juliana live in different regions of the United States, two of them just turned 18 years old and the other two achieved one of their biggest dreams, their certificate of naturalization, but they all have something in common: they will vote for the first time and they will vote in one of the toughest elections in recent years.
Each month, the Latino community adds 75,000 eligible voters, because every 30 seconds one of its members turns 18, according to an analysis by The World based on data from the Census Bureau. For this year, 3.6 million young people reached the age to participate in the election. The majority, 56%, back the Democrat Joe biden, according to this fall’s Harvard Youth Poll.
In another group are naturalized citizens who will be able to vote for the first time, which add up to 7.5 million Latinos, that represents 34% of the universe of this type of voters, although the figure has been growing, from 2016 to 2020, the percentage increase only one point. Of this group, according to the Pew Research Center, about 53% identify with the Democratic Party, while 39% with the Republican.
Jessica Diaz is a community organizer who attends Michigan State University and Claudia Gomez is a college student in Atlanta, Georgia. Both were recently eligible to vote and consider that the experience of the first vote will have consequences on that citizen and their participation.
“We have heard a lot about vote suppression … If a person feels that their vote was not counted or there are many barriers to voting, maybe those people will not want to return.”Jessica considered.
Meanwhile, Norm Angle, from Houston, Texas, and Juliana Jaramillo, who works in marketing and lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, are naturalized citizens and will be able to exercise their right to vote for the first time in the United States.
They all agree that the political environment in the country is polarized, but also that this encourages people to go to the polls.
“It has been a difficult process to have these political conversations without reaching debates, insults, problems, altercations, there is an extreme division. For me it is very difficult to see Colombians, Latinas, from other minorities, they do not understand how significant it is to vote for certain candidates, ”Juliana acknowledged. “The atmosphere is very extreme. It is one or the other. People don’t understand each other. I don’t know what will happen, because I see a very big division “.
Those divisions have also encouraged voting, since until this Sunday 93.1 million people had voted; 34 million did it in person and 59.1 million by mail, according to the Elect Project.
“I really enjoyed the voting experience. My mom and I went together and we were very proud to have the great opportunity to vote, especially in a state like Georgia where anything can happen, ”said Claudia. She is motivated by her own struggles: helping against climate change, but emphasizes: “Get Donald Trump out!”.
The issues that concern them most are Health, the economy, the racism and the climate change, although they also mention the immigration, since some acquaintances or relatives face challenges to remain in the country.
“[Voto] mainly [por] the future of my children. I think that for a long time the Latino vote has been ignored and this time we are ready to… raise our voices from everything that concerns us like never before, ”said Norma. “Many lies have been told and racial hatred has been fostered, we need a government that unites us not that divides us”.
Juliana requested the ballot by mail and last Friday deposited it in one of the direct mailboxes at the polling place, to make sure it arrived on time.
Although there were coincidences on several topics, a recurring one that the interviewees mentioned was climate change, a problem in which President Trump does not believe, unlike former Vice President Biden.
“Biden is the candidate who could best address climate change, because he helped [Barack] Obama when it implemented the Climate Action Plan. We are [los jovenes] those of us who will have to deal with more forest fires after heat waves and drought, with hurricanes fueled by global warming, with the Arctic melting, with floods ”, explained Claudia.
Norma mentioned that in Houston the experience with Hurricane Harvey is part of the warnings about the risk of not addressing the environment.
“It was devastating. I watched for months how the nearby area where I live was in ruins and how much it took thousands of families to recover from such a severe blow. Hurricanes like that are becoming more common now and it’s because of global warming. We need a change ”, he considered.
Juliana and Jessica also mentioned climate change, but the former recognizes that immigration policy is a priority for her, for family reasons.
“After these four years of Trump… that affected people who had immigration processes, including family members. I would like to see someone who had a more intuitive planJuliana expressed. “Immigration is more personal, but the topic that interests me the most is climate change. It is very difficult to see a government that denies science ”.
The importance of voting
Both the Pew Research Center and the NALEO organization have estimated that just over 50% of Latino voters could vote. The figures indicate that that would be between 14 and 16 million of the 32 million eligible voters..
Although considered an important group, Latino voters are not drawn to the general election, for a number of reasons. Some experts believe that politicians do not know how to approach them, especially considering their diversity, but among Latinos they believe that it is due to mistrust of the countries they or their families come from.
“There are people who do not believe in the process. In some Latin American countries, for example, there are elections that are really for the photo, but that are actually manipulated and then people do not believe that they are really going to make a difference … Here our vote counts and it is important that they know it ” , Norma considered.
Claudia understands that there will be people who fear the contagion of COVID-19 if he goes to the polls, but it is more blunt against those who decide not to vote for “laziness”.
“People who are not going to vote because they don’t feel like it … well, it will be the fault of these people when the government, and the world in general, does not change,” he lamented.