The upcoming presidential election is prompting Philadelphia Democrats to reach out more robustly to Latino voters.
The implications of the coronavirus pandemic have led Democrats to conduct a virtual canvassing strategy. But, in the final days before Nov. 3, outreach efforts are increasing. This week, the 43rd Ward Democratic Committee Headquarters in North Philadelphia is slated to become the Latino staging area for the Biden campaign.
Across the nation, Latino voters are the fastest-growing part of the electorate, according to the Pew Research Center. They are expected to be the largest racial or ethnic voting group this year after white people.
According to a WHYY analysis, in Pennsylvania, many counties in the densely populated eastern part of the state have more Latino residents now than they did in 2016.
The Biden campaign considers virtual events and two visits from Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris as signs that outreach is strong. State Rep. Danilo Burgos, a Democrat advising the Biden campaign, praised efforts to reach Latino voters through advertising.
Different voting procedures this year have increased the amount of messaging needed to make sure eligible Spanish-speaking residents know how to vote. Berks, Lehigh and Philadelphia counties all have enough Latino voters to trigger a mandate for translated voting materials under the Voting Rights Act.
Philadelphia City Councilmember Maria Quiñones-Sanchez said that mail-in ballot returns is behind schedule in Latino neighborhoods and that traditional efforts to get the vote are just beginning.
“The national campaigns have always been slow and never invested in the kind of community engagement we’d like to see,” said Quiñones-Sánchez. Quiñonez is a Democrat and member of the Biden campaign’s Pennsylvania Latino Leadership Council.
Over 16,000 Democratic voters requested mail-in ballots in North Philadelphia wards where many Latino voters live. However, only about a quarter have returned them, said Quiñones-Sánchez. That is significantly lower than the citywide average of 40%.
Quiñones-Sánchez said her party was now trying to make the most out of a late start. “If I have to come sit at the voting access center for several days over the next few weeks I will do it, whatever it takes,” she said.
Latino voters are a big part
Caravans have recently cruised through Reading, Allentown and Lancaster. They are events meant to mimic the election season in Puerto Rico.
“We decided to come down and promote the cause, because this is really important,” said Joaquin Colón, a former Philadelphia Fire Department battalion chief who lives in the Northeast. “This is one of the most important elections, period. Latino voters are a big part.”