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What Latinos in California Want From The Gubernatorial Recall Election

Gov. Gavin Newsom visits the Ramona Gardens Recreation Center in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
Gov. Gavin Newsom visits the Ramona Gardens Recreation Center in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

In California’s recall election, Latino voters could determine Governor Gavin Newsom’s fate.

“The question is just how high turnout will be and how much of an impact,” Mindy Romero says.

So … where do Latino voters in California really stand?

“It felt like almost two-thirds of people living in this neighborhood got COVID,” Luis Sanchez says. “So you had both the health outcomes, and on the flip side, you had the impact to small businesses.”

Time’s almost up in the recall vote. Have outreach efforts to Latino voters been effective?

Today, On Point: Latino voters and the California recall.


Mindy Romero, founder and director of the Center for Inclusive Democracy (CID) at the University of Southern California Sol Price School of Public Policy. (@MindySRomero)

Luis Sánchez, executive director of Power California, an organizing group working to mobilize young voters of color.

Interview Highlights

Have the recall campaigns been reaching out to the state’s Latino voters?

Mindy Romero: “It’s less than what we would see in, for instance, last November’s general election. Or any type of statewide, normal election. There’s only one thing on the ballot, that is this recall. There’s only one set of players that are actually doing outreach and mobilization, far fewer. You don’t have a lot of initiatives and a lot of different kinds of races, different kind of candidates.

“So, we expected, unfortunately, that there would be a lot less mobilization. It was really up to Newsom and the Republican candidates to try to make up that ground. And I think it’s clear we haven’t seen that. How much exactly it’s gotten into every community, that’s debatable. And all sides debate it. But it’s not what we would normally expect.”

According to Political Data Inc., only 18% of all registered Latino voters had mailed in their recall ballots. Does that make sense to you? 

Mindy Romero: “As of yesterday, those numbers are still 18%. So, of course, there’s more ballots that have been cast. We’re at about 35% of all vote-by-mail ballots. And of course, in this election, every registered voter got a vote-by-mail ballot in the mail. Their choice to how they want to turn it in, or whether they just want to vote in-person. But we have over a third of all voters already casting their ballot. And 18% still are Latino. In comparison, the most recent general election, in November, the presidential election, Latinos were 24% of all voters.

“Of course, that was the highest percent that we’ve ever seen. In part, driven over the last couple of decades by certainly the growth in the Latino community. 18% may be more than a lot of people would have expected at this point, because when turnouts lower in an election, typically the Latino vote can be a smaller percentage of all voters.

“But so far, at 18% … of course you want to see more representation, right? Because as you said, there are 30% of registered voters. To be equally represented, you should ultimately be 30% of registered voters. But 18% thus far. And Latinos do tend to vote more in-person than other groups. Last November, overwhelmingly, like everybody else, [voted] by mail in that election, just to be clear.

“But compared to other groups, they vote in-person more. And so Latinos maybe have an outside representation in the in-person vote, which is still just coming in. And the Election Day vote. So likely they’re going to increase that 18%, and maybe get over 20%.”

Given the importance of the state’s Latino voters in Newsom’s 2013 gubernatorial win, do you get the sense that his campaign has been putting enough effort into reaching out to those same voters again?

Mindy Romero: “The Newsom campaign will tell you they are. But we’re hearing from a lot of different places around the state that just as you mentioned at the outset, a lot of people are saying they’re not hearing very much from the campaign. From not only Newsom, but also the replacement candidates. I think a lot of factors are going on there, happening kind of all at once. The fact that we’ve had a shortened election cycle. The fact, again, we’re off cycle. People don’t know about the election.

“So there’s an extra hurdle to kind of like just even tell people, Hey, did you know there’s an election? Convince people that it actually matters, they should be paying attention to it. And that there are high stakes for that. And I think where Newsom has certainly made efforts to connect to the Latino community, in this compressed time period and with all the challenges around trying to get people’s attention on this kind of, again, off cycle, unusual election, it really needed to make an outsized effort, particularly with the Latino community, to get their attention, to make the case for why it’s important.

“Why pull themselves away from what they’re doing in their daily lives to not only follow this election, but to actually convince them that their individual vote matters? And, you know, it clearly hasn’t done that with enough Latinos. And at the bottom line is that we know Latinos are going to be underrepresented in this election. We know there’s going to be an opportunity lost. There is in every election. Because, again, in any given election, Latinos aren’t getting all of the outreach that they could.

“There’s lots of data that tells us over the years in any given election that Latinos are less likely to be mobilized and connect, contacted and asked to vote, even registered Latinos. That’s happening in this election. And it’s a missed opportunity. And I’ll tell you one reason why it’s a missed opportunity. … Newsom certainly needs every vote, even with his comfortable lead in the polls right now, he doesn’t just want to win. He doesn’t want to just defeat this recall. He wants to do it as handily as possible.

“He wants for the margin to be as wide as possible. He needs to say, he wants to say that this was a mistake. It was an illegitimate election. Look, he ran away with it. You know, it was never going to really ever be close. And certainly Latinos need to be represented in this important race, no matter how they vote.

On why the Latino community is not a monolith when it comes to voting

Mindy Romero: “In this election, where COVID is a huge part of the decision around whether he should be recalled or not, the Latino community has been hit hard. The hardest in terms of sheer numbers, in terms of cases and deaths. Hit very hard in terms of the economic downturn that happened with COVID. And let’s let’s also make sure we put it out there, make it clear to everyone that Latinos are not a monolithic group and they’re not a monolithic group in California. They skew heavily Democratic.

“But that loyalty or connection to the Democratic Party does not necessarily mean a close relationship with this governor. And he has had issues with many different Latino communities in terms of really making a strong connection. And then when you are faced with the kind of perfect storm that this governor has faced, he needs to do much more to be able to really reassure and show the Latino community and communities across the state that he has their back.

“That he’s there, that he may improve the quality of life or protect them. And we’re hearing from many Latinos across the state that that case hasn’t been made. So we just have to remember, not a monolithic group and it’s not a given that Latinos are going to vote Democratic.”

What’s coming up next year for midterms in 2022?  

Mindy Romero: “Let’s be clear that this recall election is going to have an impact, regardless of the outcome in our state and nationally for 2022, and probably beyond that. So there has been a narrative that’s been set by proponents of the recall, and Republicans … that Democrats … are mismanaging bad policies, bad for voters. And being able to use California as the ultimate example. Look at that deep blue state, that they kicked out, or they’re about to kick out, or they almost kicked out … their Democratic governor in a deep blue state. That has ramifications, in terms of fueling other recalls.”

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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