Voting groups across the country have tried just about everything to increase Latino voter turnout. Now, a strategy used in Arizona is believed to be one of the best ways to accomplishing that.
That strategy: early voting.
For years, a coalition of a dozen Latino groups know as One Arizona has been working to get Latinos with poor voting track records on the permanent early voting list, which is known as the PEVL and is a form of early voting.
Once voters are on the list, an early ballot is automatically mailed to them approximately 26 days prior to every election. This allows them to vote early and increases the likelihood of them voting during every election.
In 2010, fueled by frustration over Arizona’s approval of its controversial immigration law known as SB 1070, volunteers and paid organizers with One Arizona began knocking on doors to register Latinos to vote and to get them signed up for the permanent early voting list.
They also began going door-to-door reminding Latino voters to either mail back their ballots or turn them in at the county recorder’s office before election day. And if for any reason voters couldn’t do that, canvassers began volunteering to turn in the ballots for them.
When One Arizona first began its efforts in 2010, there were only 90,000 Latinos on the permanent early voting list. Now, that number totals more than 265,000.
Getting more Latinos to vote early
Mi Familia Vota is one of the groups that are part of One Arizona and have been working to get more Latinos to sign up for the permanent early voting list.
Ben Monterroso, executive director of Mi Familia Vota, said voting through the early ballots makes it easier for Latinos to vote, especially for those who work two or three jobs and don’t have time to vote at the polls on election day. He said that’s one of the reasons why the Arizona chapter of Mi Familia Vota has made early voting “an integral part” of its efforts to increase Latino voter participation in Arizona.
“As Latinos, we need to take the opportunity that we have to start voting as soon as the state gives us the opportunity to do it,” Monterroso said in an interview with VOXXI. “In other words, election day ends on November 4. But it doesn’t begin there, it ends there.”
He added that early voting has proven to be “one of the best ways” to get more Latinos to vote. A report by Latino Decisions finds that, indeed, the number of Latinos who turn out to vote in Arizona has increased over the last few years.
According to the report, an estimated 400,000 Latinos voted in the 2012 elections, compared to 291,000 in 2008. The total number of Latinos registered to vote also increased, going from 410,000 in 2008 to 516,000 in 2012.
Petra Falcon, executive director of Promise Arizona, whose group is also part of One Arizona, credits the increases to the work her group and others have done to register Latinos to vote and get them signed up for early voting.
In an interview with VOXXI, Falcon said that placing Latinos on the early voter list makes it more likely that they’ll vote. She also said it gives Latinos more time to educate themselves on the candidates and initiatives that are on the ballot.
“Voting early allows them much more time and much more privacy to really reflect on who the candidates are,” she said. “And quite frankly, for the four years that we’ve been doing voter registration, we’ve found that the biggest fear for people is voting for the wrong person or voting for the wrong ballot initiative.”
Between now and the November 4 election, Falcon said her group will “chase” Latino voters who are signed on to the permanent early voting list to ensure they know how to fill out and turn in the early ballots. They plan to do that through door knocking and phone banking.
Not all states offer early voting
Other states, including California, have followed in Arizona’s footsteps and have also been increasing their efforts to get more Latinos to sign up for early voting, which comes in various forms.
Monterroso said though he wishes more states would do the same, there are some that can’t because early voting is not available or is very limited. In Texas, for example, only a few number of voters can vote early by mail if they meet certain criteria, such as be 65 years or older, disabled or out of the country on election day.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 14 states do not offer early voting.
Still, Monterroso said he hopes those states that do offer early voting—which totals 33—will ramp up their efforts to get more Latinos to cast their ballots before election day.
“As we go forward, this is something that our community is going to be looking at,” he said about early voting. “And I hope that we take advantage of it.”
Originally published on VOXXI as Early voting key to increasing Latino voter turnout