World Cup watch parties, loteria and Taco Tuesdays: How are Latino voters getting reached ahead of Georgia’s runoff?
Like other races in the 2022 midterms, Latino voters will play a big role in the end result.
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Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock will go up against Republican challenger Herschel Walker in a Senate runoff next Tuesday, Dec. 6, after both were unable to win more than 50% of the vote in Georgia’s U.S. Senate race on Election Day, Nov. 8.
Early voting has been well underway and is in progress in many Georgia counties five days out from the final contest.
Voter mobilization efforts have been ramping up in the lead up to the runoff, particularly for Latino voters. Like the 2022 midterm results, the Latino voting bloc is likely to be crucial in terms of who will come out victorious. Some of the mobilization efforts include Taco Tuesdays and World Cup watch parties.
Matt Barreto, president and co-founder of the national firm BSP Research, focused on Democratic polling told NBC News that while Latinos are about 5% of all voters in the state, they still "could be that key group.” Barreto has also been tracking Latino voters’ influence in tight races across the country.
“If this is a 1% election, it looks like Latinos could provide that key margin,” he added.
On Election Day, Latino voters gave Warnock an 80,000-vote net advantage, according to Barreto. As a result, groups like the GALEO Impact Fund and Poder Latinx are looking to reel in that advantage in the runoff election. For Republicans, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is looking to give Walker their own advantage with Latinos through its Operación ¡Vamos! outreach program.
The Latino voting bloc should be one to get close analysis. Latinos are the third biggest ethnic group in the state with 1.1 million, according to the 2020 census. Roughly half of them live in five Atlanta-metropolitan-area counties — Fulton, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb and Gwinnett.
Out of those 1.1 million Latinos in the state, more than 300,000 are registered voters and are mostly concentrated in the aforementioned counties. Eighty-eight percent of the registered voters are "active" — having actively voted in the last two elections — according to the Georgia Secretary of State's Office.
The state’s Latino voters are also significant because of their youth. Black and Latino youth coming out in droves to vote in the 2022 midterms proved to be essential to many tight races like those in Arizona, and Nevada. Under-30 Latinos in Georgia are the biggest share of the overall Latino electorate in the state, according to another national voter mobilization group, Voto Latino.
As for the mobilization efforts to get more Latinos to vote in the runoff election, many bilingual canvassers from nonprofit GALEO in Georgia, that is focused on voting and Latino civic engagement that is also supporting Warnock, have gone from door to door across homes in Cobb, DeKalb, and Gwinnett counties handing out “El Pastor” lotería cards.
It’s a nice play on words inspired by the Senator, who has been a senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the former church of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
"People in our community really respect pastors, so we wanted to elevate that he was a pastor," GALEO Deputy Director Alejandro Chavez said.
The lotería cards have created conversations between canvassers and prospective voters, Chavez said. Not only are they ramping up their mobilization efforts, but its advertising efforts on social media and on Spanish-language radio as well.
Also on the card is Warnock with a medical bill and Bible in hand to gesture his devotion to giving affordable health care to his constituents. He is then joined by a round of butterflies, a symbol that represents "Dreamers,” from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program recipients.
GALEO has also increased in size its canvassing efforts to two smaller counties in the northern part of the state, Whitfield and Cherokee, according to Chavez. They are historically overlooked because they are outside the Atlanta metropolitan area, according to GALEO.
Even though they "don't have huge populations, they do have dense areas with Latino, bilingual, Spanish speakers," Chavez said. "It's an opportunity to expand the electorate."
Another voter mobilization organization, Poder Latinx, hosted a World Cup watch party on Saturday, Nov. 26, where attendees were invited to make a pledge to vote. They watched the Argentina and Mexico group stage match up that turned out to be the most-watched Spanish-language World Cup group stage broadcast in American history.
"A lot of our work is really tailored to our community in a cultural and linguistic way," Yadira Sanchez, executive director of Poder Latinx, said. She added that ideas like a watch party over traditional engagement strategies makes the entire process less frightening for young and new Latino voters looking to participate not just in the runoff election, but future ones as well.
Additionally, Poder Latinx has held several events scheduled, including Taco Tuesday to the Polls as well as another that is focused on Latina and young voters at Georgia State University.
They have also released a public service announcement featuring Puerto Rican superhero La Borinqueña, encouraging early voting. The plan is to release another public service announcement featuring the Chicano band Las Cafeteras with their own rendition of Ray Charles’ hit "Georgia on My Mind."
Ahead of next Tuesday, Voto Latino recognized 175,000 young low-propensity Latino voters in Georgia who voted in the previous election. Their engagement this go round will be crucial in increasing Latino voter turnout in Tuesday’s runoff election, Maria Teresa Kumar, president of Voto Latino said.
The Latino vote proved to be imperative in these past midterm elections and on Tuesday, we might see another confirmation of that. Barreto described Georgia's Latino vote as "an important coalition, ally of Black voters. Black voters are the dominant group, which can determine election results because they're so large and they vote very heavily Democrat."
But Latinos are "providing that critical extra margin in these 1% margin elections," he added.