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In MN Latinx Communities, Grassroots Voter Outreach Ramps Up

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According to the Pew Research Center, 3.1% of eligible voters in Minnesota are Hispanic. (Adobe Stock)
According to the Pew Research Center, 3.1% of eligible voters in Minnesota are Hispanic. (Adobe Stock)
 By Mike Moen, Public News Service - MN - Producer, Contact
September 17, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS -- Voter outreach groups have altered their approach during the pandemic, and that includes a Minnesota organization connecting with Latinx communities.

The group COPAL MN still hopes to make an impact for those who might feel overlooked by the electoral system, as well as candidates.

Leaders said they're trying to limit a lot of face-to-face interactions with Latinx voters, given the fact their communities have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

Ryan Perez, democracy director for COPAL MN, said they're instead doing a lot of phone work, while trying to provide key information that often doesn't get through to these individuals.

"People don't know that voting by mail is an option, or people don't know that they can vote curbside on election day," Perez explained. "And also, a lot of the media information, as with previous years, continues to be available only in English."

Perez said they're strongly encouraging the use of absentee ballots this fall to avoid any health risks.

He said their grassroots efforts have resulted in more than 10,000 pledges from Latinx voters across Minnesota to participate in the election.

Nationwide, the group Voto Latino said it has officially registered more than 250,000 voters for the 2020 election cycle.

And even though Latinos now represent the second largest voting bloc in the U.S., Perez said candidates still aren't serious about engaging with them.

President Donald Trump and his challenger, Joe Biden, who will both campaign in Minnesota this week, have made recent appeals to Latino voters. But Perez said it's just window dressing.

"The conversation about policy that actually affects Latinos is very minimal," Perez said. "Right now, you hear about who's winning the Latino vote. That's only the conversation. We're not talking about, like, do Latino students have the proper resources in their schools? Can we address the fact of our community not having adequate health-care access?"

He said they're not even hearing much about more urgent policy matters, such as this week's federal court ruling that essentially allows the Trump administration to end temporary protected status for more than 300,000 immigrants.

Despite the voting power of Latinos, some political observers say the harsh impact of the pandemic might curb their presence in this year's election.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.

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