Leading up to Election Day, Patricia Rosas was knocking on doors in Latino neighborhoods in Phoenix. She can’t vote because she is undocumented but has been encouraging those who can to vote.
“I want to see change here in Arizona,” she told VOXXI. “I want to take out of office the people who are harming us and especially our children.”
Rosas has been involved in such efforts ever since 2010 when a Phoenix police office unjustly arrested her 24-year-old son. That same year, Rosas’ 30-year-old daughter left to live in California because she feared Arizona’s new immigration law.
Now, Rosas is a volunteer with the “Adiós Arpaio” campaign, which is made up of several organizations. Together with volunteers from another campaign dubbed “Joe’s Got to Go,” they have been working to prevent Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio from getting re-elected for a sixth term.
They have been doing so by canvassing Latino neighborhoods, registering Latinos to vote and encouraging them to vote for Paul Penzone, a 45-year-old retired Phoenix police sergeant who’s running to oust Arpaio.
Latino voter turnout expected to jump in Arizona
On Monday, leaders from the groups said Latino voter turnout will be significantly higher than in 2008. They expect nearly 340,700 Latinos in Arizona will cast their ballots on Tuesday. That’s about 89,000 more than the total number of Latinos who voted in 2008.
Similarly, a report by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials projected two weeks ago that the Latino voter turnout in Arizona would be 359,000 on Tuesday, up from about 291,000 in 2008.
The Latino leaders also said that as of Friday, nearly 112,000 Latinos in Arizona had already voted through early ballots, topping the number of Latinos who voted early in 2008 by 28 percent.
Also significant are the number of Latinos who are now registered to receive their early ballots in the mail. In 2008, there were 180,803 Latino voters who were on the list to receive early ballots. This year, a total of 251,752 Latinos are on that list. That’s a 39 percent increase over the last four years.
The expected increase in Latino voter turnout in Arizona could hurt Arpaio’s chances of getting re-elected as he faces his toughest re-election bid. Polls constantly show that Penzone trails behind Arpaio by at least 5 percent and struggles with name recognition. Arpaio also outspent Penzona by about 16 to 1.
Latino voter turnout could impact Arpaio and Carmona races
Arizona’s Latino voter turnout could also have a big impact in the U.S. Senate race between former Surgeon General Richard Carmona and six-term Congressman Jeff Flake. Polls show Carmona, who is of Puerto Rican decent, is widely favored among Latinos. If he wins, he would become the state’s first Latino to represent Arizona in the U.S. Senate.
Monica Sandschafer, executive director of the Arizona Center for Empowerment, said the numbers indicating a greater Latino voter turnout this year are the results of a growing movement among Latinos in Arizona.
“We are transforming not only the culture of voting within the Latino community but also creating a culture of accountability with elected officials and candidates,” she said. “We are sending the message that they have to pay attention to the Latino community because if they don’t, the Latino community will send them packing.”
For Petra Falcon, a spokesperson for the “Adiós Arpaio” campaign, the numbers reflect the enthusiasm seen among Latinos to get Arpaio out of office.
“People are tired of the brutality and of the fear that was created under the reign of Sheriff Joe Arpaio,” she said.
Arpaio is known for his tough-on-immigration enforcement, which has gotten him wide support from Republicans and members of the Tea Party. However, he is not a favorite among Latinos who accuse his office of racially profiling and discriminating against Latinos.
Falcon, who is also the executive director of Promise Arizona in Action, said Arpaio has for years been detaining undocumented immigrants for minor charges instead of going after serious criminals. She added that her group worked hard this year to register 34,327 new Latino voters in order to ensure enough Latinos turn out to vote against the Sheriff.
For Rosas, seeing Arpaio lose his re-election bid would give her a sense of relief and tranquility.
“Tomorrow is our victory,” she said on Monday. “I have a lot of faith and hope that we will succeed.”