Politics

Will Latino get-out-the-vote efforts pay off in the primary?

Volunteers Rodrigo Beteta and India Warren do last-minute, get-out-the-vote canvassing for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles in West Adams on Tuesday morning.
Volunteers Rodrigo Beteta and India Warren do last-minute, get-out-the-vote canvassing for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles in West Adams on Tuesday morning.
Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC
Volunteers Rodrigo Beteta and India Warren do last-minute, get-out-the-vote canvassing for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles in West Adams on Tuesday morning.
India Warren leaves a flier in a resident's gate as part of last-minute efforts in West Adams to get out the vote on Tuesday morning. Canvassers are volunteers with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.
Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC
Volunteers Rodrigo Beteta and India Warren do last-minute, get-out-the-vote canvassing for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles in West Adams on Tuesday morning.
Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles volunteers, Rodrigo Beteta and India Warren, stop by a home in West Adams on Tuesday morning, hoping to urge residents to vote.
Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC


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Rodrigo Beteta and India Warren paused outside a front yard in Los Angeles' West Adams neighborhood Tuesday, holding address lists of registered voters and fistfuls of fliers that read "Let's Vote."

The two volunteers had been walking the streets in this majority-Latino neighborhood since 7 a.m., canvassing with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles and making a last-ditch pitch to get registered voters out to the polls.

"What we're doing is reminding people that today is actually the California primary, just kind of reminding them where their polling place is," said Beteta, 18, "and to actually just go out and vote."

At this particular home, a large dog barked menacingly, but the volunteers pressed on. Beteta shouted "Buenos Dias!" at the screen door. No one seemed to be home. So they left a flier with polling place hours, and a link to find their polling location.

This last-ditch get-out-the-vote effort is one of many in recent months aimed at Latino voters. They along with Asian Americans have traditionally lagged at the polls. Among Latinos eligible to vote, only about 48 percent turned out to the polls in the November 2012 general election.

Intensive efforts have been underway to change that, with the 2016 presidential race as a catalyst and the heated rhetoric around issues like immigration acting as fuel.

In recent months, Latino advocacy and civic-engagement groups have organized voter registration drives, get-out-the-vote phone banks, even efforts by some groups to get legal permanent residents to become U.S. citizens in time to vote in November.

The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund (NALEO) projected more than 3.8 million Latinos are would cast votes in November, a 22 percent increase from the 2012 general election.

Tuesday's primary election will draw smaller numbers. But a record number of Californians have registered to vote for the primary — and some experts believe efforts to reach out to Latinos and Asian Americans played a role.

"Latino and Asian American advocacy groups have been investing lots of resources in registering voters," said Louis DeSipio, a political scientist at University of California, Irvine. "And they have taken advantage of the fact that California is so late in the cycle this year. We have been talking about this election for six months now really...throughout all that time, there has been talk in California about turning people out."

There are unique push and pull factors in 2016's California primary: While the election is taking place in June and not in February, as it did in 2008, the Democratic primary race is still in play as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has vowed to fight on even while Hillary Clinton has the delegates she needs for the party's nomination, according to Associated Press.

The immigration rhetoric about Mexican immigrants and Muslims from presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump  has galvanized both opposition and support for him.

"Latinos and Asian Americans are very frustrated when they hear some of the things that Mr.  Trump has said," DeSipio noted. This could be driving some to register and to the polls.

UC Riverside Karthick Ramakrishnan anticipates higher turnout in this primary than in 2012, but that "it's not clear how much of this we should be credited to community organizations, or to the dynamic of the presidential campaigns," he said.

"But when it comes to turning out the vote, the role of community organizations is critically important," he added.

For weeks building up to the primary, Latino voter-engagement groups like NALEO and Mi Familia Vota have been running phone banks, urging registered voters to turn out.

"This year we are putting more of an emphasis on youth engagement, looking at Latino voters between the ages of 18 to 25," said Angelica Peña, NALEO's civic engagement director for California. "That has been the main focus of our campaign."

Peña said she noticed Latino voter outreach campaigns in California emphasizing the May 23 voter registration deadline to cast ballots in the primary.

"There was definitely an increase in making sure the community was educated as to when those deadlines were," Peña said.

A large get-out-the-vote phone bank at NALEO's offices in Los Angeles operated through Monday night.

On Tuesday, the organization planned a bilingual voter-information hotline to operate until half an hour after the polls close. They'll provide information about "what is on the ballot, how they can cast their ballot, and what to do if there area any instances of disenfranchisement at the polls," Peña said.

CHIRLA, the advocacy group that sent out the door-to-door canvassers, will run get-out-the-vote efforts until the last minute, calling voters until 7 p.m. Tuesday.