BY Shine Salt
UNITY Student Reporter
The Presidential election has been a hot topic with republicans and democrats spurring controversial issues that have captivated different stories. But when it comes to Latino and Native American votes, which side are they swinging to and how are the voting efforts?
During the UNITY Phoenix Media Regional Summit, a panel of journalist on the political beat discussed the potential effects of the Latino and Native American vote on the upcoming presidential election. Many on the panel agree that considering the Trump factor, many Latinos are, and lean toward, democratic candidates. But President Obama’s deportation and immigration policies hasn’t been easy to trust democrats either. Ultimately it will come down to ramping-up the voting efforts and voter turnout if Latinos want to make an impact.
“I would agree that turnout is going to be key,” said Chris Ramirez, an Enterprise/Business Reporter for Corpus Christi Caller-Times. “One trend that has emerged at least in my part of south Texas in Corpus Christi, which is about two hours from the border, is Latinos that have landed invert status or in the country legally made a rush to become citizens—just for the purpose of voting in this election. Trump, no matter where you stand on supporting him or rejecting him, has become a catalyst for voter registrations.”
In south Texas, there has been a fifteen percent increase of Latinos registering to vote, from Oasis County to the border, said Ramirez.
However, among tribal nations is another story. They neither pay attention to nor talk about Trump as much as Latinos because he’s not directing any of his tax act to Natives. Felicia Fonseca, a Flagstaff Correspondence with the Associated Press described it as solely a democratic block for tribes.
“Who they’re struggling more with is Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton,” said Fonseca. “There’s a history with Hillary and Bill Clinton on the Navajo reservation. Her campaigning for him back when he ran for president, and when she came the last time, she did meet with tribes here in Arizona. But also Bernie Sanders for the first time in a long time showed up on the Navajo Nation. His wife went to the Apache land at Oak Flat where they have a controversial project over copper mining there.”
There are commonalities between Latinos and Natives when it comes to voting and getting the candidates to shed light on their issues. Republicans tend to discuss illegal immigration and ‘illegals,’ but you don’t hear them speaking to second, third or fourth generation Hispanics—considering their concerns align with mainstream issues like the economy and health care.
Yvonne Wingett Sanchez has been covering elections in Arizona for 15 years. She’s the State Politics Reporter for the Arizona Republic. Wingett Sanchez says she has seen the shifts of Latino voters.
“Separately, when you talk about the circus factors, I think this is where a lot of the underestimation of Trump comes into play,” said Sanchez. “When you actually go to these events, these are true believers. People who go to these events are true believers and they believe everything this candidate is saying.”
When it comes to tribes and in terms of mainstream politics, they’re making sure the candidates uphold tribal sovereignty and recognize there is a government-to-government relation with the United States.
“There is a clear political divide between democrats and republicans,” said Gabriela Maya Bernadett, a freelance reporter for Indian Country Today. “It’s very telling that from the republican side neither Trump nor Cruz has made any mention, at all, anything tribal related. If you go to either one of their website or hear any one of their speeches, nothing at all includes anything about Native Americans, tribal sovereignty, nothing. Absolutely nothing.”
Corpus Christi Caller-Times reporter Ramirez used the reduction of polling sites in Arizona as an example of what media should be covering in real voter issues. Where Arizona reporters like Wingett Sanchez held Maricopa County officials accountable for only opening 60 polling sites for the entire county. Wingett Sanchez said the paper delved deeply into data to try to debunk the premise election officials used to explain their reasons behind the decision to reduce the number of polling locations.
“We were at the state capital where it really was a circus,” said Sanchez. “Hundreds of people packed the State Capital during a special elections committee hearing where they were trying to get to the bottom of why these decisions were made to reduce the number of polling sites. We tried to tell the stories of disenfranchisement—everyone was disenfranchised, it wasn’t just the minorities.”
Wingett Sanchez said a reporter must be careful not to legitimize or add credibility to a point that’s clearly proven incorrect. But when the people are legitimately flocking to candidates for their statements on policy proposals, you have to cover it. You have to be fair to the candidates’ supporters and to the candidates.
The UNITY: Journalists for Diversity held the Phoenix Media Regional Summit at the ASU Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in downtown Phoenix. The summit titled “Stories from the Four Corners: Empowering the Southwestern Perspective” was co-sponsored by the Cronkite School, Panda Express, Bashas’, and The Refuge Café.