PHOENIX — Arizona is a red state, but Democrats think it could turn blue with the help of the state's massive and growing Latino population. The only problem is, Latinos don't participate in elections in Arizona as much as other groups do.
But that might be changing, thanks to grassroots groups like Living United for Change in Arizona, which grew out of the fight against Arizona's SB 1070 "Show me your papers" law back in 2010. In the years since, LUCHA (the group's acronym is the Spanish word for "fight") has developed into a powerful organizing group that could change the face of politics in Arizona in the years to come.
"The very first question is, why are Latinos not voting? I want to flip that around and say, Why have our communities, our POC Latino communities, not been invested in?" Alejandra Gomez, co-executive director of LUCHA, told VICE News. "Why has no one gone to knock on our families' doors?"
Of the 7 million eligible voters in Arizona, about 30 percent are Latino, and growing, according to the census. One poll showed as much as 84 percent of Latino voters who voted in 2016 went blue. Basically, any way you slice it, the more Latinos vote in Arizona, the better it is for Democrats. But voter preference and voter turnout are two different things, and just 47 percent of eligible Latino voters cast their vote in 2016, meaning more than 600,000 eligible Latinos declined to vote in that election. Trump won the state by less than 100,000 ballots.
Volunteer Luis Gutierrez said one of the hardest parts of mobilizing Latino voters is a general sense that their vote might not matter.
"There's a lot of people like, 'Remember the 2016 elections? My vote didn't matter on that. I voted for Hillary, and look who won. Trump won, so my vote doesn't count, I'm not going to vote,'" Gutierrez said. "What I say to that is, that's an Electoral College race. These elections here, like the governor elections? That can come down to one single vote."
VICE News spent a couple of days with LUCHA to see how their efforts are landing in 2018 — and beyond.