Young Latino voters in Pennsylvania, Florida could tip the scales for Trump and Biden

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Maegan Llerena, 27, still thinks of the 2016 election and how President Donald Trump won his home state of Pennsylvania by a razor-thin margin. While more than 6 million Pennsylvanians voted in the presidential election, around 44,000 votes were enough to win Trump’s victory.

Llerena, state director of Make the Road Action in Pennsylvania, which is part of the nation’s largest progressive immigrant-led organization, told NBC News she is doing everything in her power to bring young people together. Latinos to vote.

“We need to make sure we remove Trump from office because our families, our neighbors and our community are literally dying. People are not going to be successful with four more years of Trump, ”she said, referring to how Trump’s response to the coronavirus has resulted in a disproportionate number of deaths and infections among Latinos, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At the same time, young Latinos like Armando Ibarra, 35, are stepping up their efforts in Florida to secure Trump’s re-election. Ibarra cited Trump’s recognition of Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate leader, his hard-line approach to Cuba and his labeling of former Colombian conservative president Álvaro Uribe, a divisive figure among Colombians, as a “hero.”

“Miami is so tied to Latin America in business and culture that foreign policy is almost like domestic policy,” said Ibarra, president of the Miami Young Republicans.

A Trump or Biden victory could hinge on victory in two crucial battlefield states – Florida and Pennsylvania – and young Latino voters could play a decisive role in a running presidential race.

Latinos make up the largest share of non-white voters in the country; a record 32 million Latinos make up 13% of all eligible voters. But what’s more remarkable is their youth – around 40% of eligible Latino voters are between the ages of 18 and 35, according to census data.

Hispanics are among the youngest racial or ethnic groups in the country with a median age of 30, according to the Pew Research Center. One million Latinos are expected to turn 18 every year for the next two decades, which means it’s nearly impossible to engage Latino voters without understanding their connection to the nation’s youth voting.

Llerena said Make the Road Action made 1.25 million calls and sent more than a million text messages to Latin American voters in Pennsylvania, while young Republicans in Miami registered many new voters, sometimes between 300 and 400 people in one day, and recruited hundreds of new Latinos for Trump volunteers.

People line up at the start of early voting in Hialeah, Florida on October 19, 2020.Maria Alejandra Cardona / Reuters

More than 42.2 million people voted early in part due to fears over exposure to Covid-19 on election day and voters under 30 make up 9.2% of all ballots, according to the data analyzed by TargetSmart, a Democratic polling company. More than 2 million of them voted in 14 battlefield states such as Pennsylvania and Florida, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. (CIRCLE), which studies the political engagement of young Americans. More than one million young people voted for the first time, a significant increase from the estimated 435,000 young people who voted for the first time at this point in 2016, according to data from TargetSmart.

Almost 3 million Latinos in the country voted early, compared to around 1.4 million who voted so far in 2016. Almost 500,000 are young Latino voters under the age of 30; about 65% of them (311,633 voters) voted for the first time, according to TargetSmart data Thursday night.

Racism, police protests, reproductive rights as voter issues

Yumaira Saavedra from Allentown, Pa., Will join hundreds of thousands of first-time Latino youth who have already voted. She plans to send out her ballot soon to vote for Biden, although she did vote for Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., In the primaries.

“But when he dropped out of the race, I decided to vote for Biden because I really want to vote Trump,” said Saavedra, who is 18.

Saavedra, who is Mexican and grew up in a mixed-status family, said Trump’s remarks referring to people from Mexico as “bringing crime” and “rapists” have remained in his memory since he said them in 2015.

“Wow, that’s what he really thinks of us,” she said. “It completely bombarded me. “

The trans military ban and Trump’s response to the Charlottesville, Va. Protests in 2017, when white nationalists and counter-defenders clashed, killing one and injuring 19 others, are also among the reasons why Saavedra decided early on to vote against Trump and organize other young Latinos. voters like her.

“I think all of these things made a lot of people more overtly racist,” she said.

Throughout her organization, Saavedra found that the nationwide racial calculation following numerous protests against the murder of George Floyd had motivated many of her friends to go out and vote, she said.

Young Latino voters reported that racial and ethnic equality is a fundamental issue that drives them to the polls. More than 8 in 10 (85%) registered Latino voters said they were more likely to vote if it means tackling inequalities and systemic barriers, according to a recent poll by BuzzFeed and Telemundo (NBC’s sister network) .

“Sad to say, it took a man who died from police brutality to realize that we have to change now,” Saavedra said.

Reconstruction of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria is also another issue motivating Puerto Rican voters in Pennsylvania, many of whom have settled in post-Maria state, Llerena said, especially because family members on the American territory cannot elect the president who will be in charge of their recovery.

A woman holds up a sign as Joe Biden speaks in Miramar, Florida on October 13, 2020.Carolyn Kaster / AP

Three years later, the Trump administration and local officials have still not made real progress in updating the island’s outdated power grid and rebuilding destroyed homes. While the slow response to the deadliest natural disaster in the United States in 100 years prompts many Puerto Ricans to vote for Biden, others like Marlon González remain loyal to Trump.

“He didn’t handle it properly, but you can’t just judge a person by one action,” said González, 31, who voted for Trump in 2016 and canvassed in Orlando, Fla. to make sure he gets re-elected. .

In his view, some of Trump’s achievements, such as being the first US president to visit North Korea to resume stalled nuclear negotiations and his attempts to “create more jobs in the United States, rather than outsourcing them to other countries – essentially offsets everything else ”González said. At least a fifth of young Latinos plan to vote Republican in this election, according to the BuzzFeed and Telemundo poll, a voting bloc that has been important to Republicans in swing states such as Florida.

But Estefany Londoño, 23, a Colombian American who leans toward Democracy, said Trump’s efforts to suspend some clinics providing family planning and reproductive health services if they perform abortions or refer patients to centers that do so. were doing – along with her insistence on upholding Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court ahead of the election – are some of the issues that motivated her to go to vote early in Orlando.

Forty-four percent of young voters aged 18 to 39 registered as Democrats or Independents in 10 battlefield states, including Florida and Pennsylvania, said they would be more likely to vote for Biden if the candidate Trump was confirmed to the Supreme Court, according to a new investigation by Civiqs, a polling and data analysis company, on behalf of the Alliance for Youth Action, a national network of groups building political power among young people . The same investigation also found that the coronavirus was the main issue on the minds of young voters over the past four months.

Londoño said she also wanted a president who promotes “corporate responsibility” and protects workers.

“It’s very disturbing how these companies are getting bigger and more powerful, especially when their workers are so underpaid, even though they bring in and manage so much money on a daily basis,” she said. “We need to have better education, better health care and all of that can happen if these multimillionaires pay their taxes.”

Llerena and Ibarra agreed that immigration is a significant issue engaging young Latinos in their respective battlefield states where Trump won by narrow margins in 2016.

Latino supporters of President Donald Trump hold placards after Mike Pence addresses supporters at a Latinos for Trump campaign rally in Orlando, Florida on October 10, 2020.Paul Hennessy / NurPhoto via Getty Images

For Ibarra, a second term for Trump would mean an opportunity to “bring freedom and democracy” to Latin American countries such as Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua so that “people don’t feel like they don’t. had no choice but to flee these countries just to live. “

But Llerena said immigrants to Pennsylvania “are worried about the way the ice raids are going in Philadelphia” the same week Immigration and Custom Enforcement launched a poster campaign in the state, showing the faces six immigrants who had recently been arrested and released by local authorities in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Five of the six immigrants had been charged, but not convicted, for crimes such as public intoxication, conduct disorder, robbery and aggravated assault, among others.

“The Trump administration clearly doesn’t care about immigrants,” Llerena said, adding that “having four more years of horror that Trump has already given us in the past four years” is not an option.

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