Young and politically empowered in Arizona
Latino canvassers push to get out the vote.
When Fhernanda Ortiz was 16, an organizer from the Arizona Center for Empowerment, or ACE, a social justice organization, spoke at her high school. After the talk, Ortiz signed up for a six-week political education course run by ACE in partnership with Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA), its sister organization. There, she learned about the issues impacting her community, including discrimination and anti-immigrant policies; she even attended an Operation Streamline hearing in Tucson, where dozens of shackled, undocumented immigrants appeared before a judge for criminal prosecution.
In Phoenix, where she lives, Ortiz learned how to exercise her political rights. “I didn’t know back then that I could go to the state Capitol and listen to a hearing, or watch state representatives,” she said in a video call in July. “When Jeff Flake was senator, I didn’t know I could go to his office, or write a letter. That was crazy to me.”
By the 2018 midterms, Ortiz was volunteering as a canvasser. As the registration deadline neared, which is a month before Election Day in Arizona, she and other teens her age spent summer evenings with clipboards and registration forms in hand, approaching people in the parking lots of supermarkets and gas stations. The gas station “was my best place, actually,” Ortiz said. While people filled up their tanks, she had ample time to convince them to register.
Like many U.S. university students, Ortiz, who is now 19, attends classes remotely. In her spare time, though, she leads her own team of young Latinos to register voters. The work looks very different from 2018, when Ortiz herself was a canvasser whose team focused on face-to-face interactions. Now, most of their time is spent at home, running through official lists of eligible voters and making phone calls.
At their weekly video chats, Ortiz and her team discuss strategies for keeping people on the phone, role-playing how calls might go, and working on alternative ways for reaching potential voters, such as sending out mass texts and using social media messenger services. This virtual canvassing isn’t easy. “When you are out there, you can be with someone until they say like the fifth, ‘No,’ ” Ortiz said. “You can follow them to their car and try and convince them in those couple of minutes. It’s super easy. Now, people can just hang up. Some of my folks have had really bad conversations.”
See the rest of the story at: https://www.hcn.org/issues/52.10/south-election2020-young-and-politically-empowered-in-arizona
Jessica Kutz is an assistant editor for High Country News.