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Despite Voting Obstacles, IA Latinos Energized to Cast Ballots

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Heading into 2020, a record 32 million Latinos were projected to be eligible to vote in the United States. (Adobe Stock)
Heading into 2020, a record 32 million Latinos were projected to be eligible to vote in the United States. (Adobe Stock)
 By Mike Moen - Producer, Contact
October 20, 2020

DES MOINES, Iowa -- A key advocacy group says Iowa's Latinx communities could have a significant impact at the polls in November. And even though policy decisions have made it harder to vote safely, activists feel optimistic about turnout.

Historically, Latinos have lagged behind other demographics when it comes to participating in elections, but they now represent the largest minority voting group in the U.S. Joe Enriquez Henry, political director of the nonpartisan Iowa League of United Latin American Citizens, said over the past year, outreach groups have added 10,000 Latinx voters to registration rolls in the state.

He added about half of the registered population are younger than 30, and that generation is particularly outspoken when it comes to political issues.

"And they are the ones coming from those mixed-status families that have had to deal with the issues of immigration and have kind of been the voices of their family," Enriquez Henry said.

He said because of absentee-voting laws approved by the Republican-led Legislature this year, many Latinos in Iowa still plan to head to the polls on Election Day. That's despite Iowa seeing a surge in COVID-19 activity.

GOP officials maintain the rules are meant to protect against fraud.

President Donald Trump is seeing increased support from the Hispanic community in key states such as Florida. But Enriquez Henry noted the feedback his group is getting from Latinx voters in Iowa is that they generally are supporting Joe Biden, because they feel their situation hasn't improved over the past four years.

"There has not been discussion by this president when it comes to jobs, health care, education and comprehensive immigration reform," he said.

Overall, the Pew Research Center says Biden holds a 34-point advantage over Trump among eligible Latino voters.

As for Iowa, Enriquez Henry said the effect the pandemic has had on the meat-packing industry also will be a factor this election.

"Many of these meat-packing workers have been infected. Many are Latinos," Enriquez Henry said. "Those families are very concerned about the lack of safety."

Trump and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds have come under fire for not taking sufficient action to protect workers during the pandemic.

There are 80,000 eligible Latino voters in Iowa.

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

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