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Despite virus fears, Arizona prepares to go to the polls Tuesday

Across the country, election officials are scrambling to decide how to adjust to the coronavirus pandemic. Louisiana and Georgia have postponed their primary contests, and candidates have eliminated public rallies entirely. But in Arizona, Tuesday’s primary is still on, and some 80 percent of voters were expected to mail in their ballots ahead of time. Stephanie Sy reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lisa will be back with Politics Monday in just a moment. But, first, election officials across the country are considering how to adjust to the pandemic. Louisiana, Georgia and Ohio have now postponed their primary contests, and candidates have scrapped public rallies altogether.

    Stephanie Sy has this report from Arizona, where some 80 percent of voters were expected to mail in their ballots ahead of tomorrow's primary contest, and the race is still on.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Seemingly undeterred by the threat of coronavirus, the farmers market in downtown Phoenix was buzzing this weekend. New rules enacted since the outbreak prevented J.D. Duke from offering up samples of his organic cookies, but he was handing out political opinions for free.

  • J.D. Duke:

    I do feel that we need a change in our leadership in our country.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Duke is still undecided, but over at the community food cooperative, Kenny Besaw was wearing his support for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

  • Kenny Besaw:

    The same people that stayed home when they ran Hillary against Trump are going to stay home when they run Joe Biden against Trump. And it's out of a frustration. And it's out of a lack of empathy on their part.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    How has Trump been for the Latino community?

  • Alexis Delgado-Garcia:

    Horrible.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Alexis Delgado-Garcia is another vote for Sanders, but the first-time voter plans on backing whoever the eventual nominee is.

    Some of his family members have never gained legal status, even though they have lived in Arizona for decades. Alexis is one of a growing number of voting-age Latinos that want to swing Arizona blue.

  • Alexis Delgado-Garcia:

    It's about people over profit and being able to understand that people matter, our values matter, our emotions matter, everything about us matters.

    I want to represent my family. I want to represent my mom and my dad.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Joe Garcia is both director of public policy at Chicanos Por La Causa, and a longtime Arizona political journalist.

  • Joe Garcia:

    It's young Latinos. And that's going to be the key, because when they were growing up, perhaps one or both of their parents might not have been able to vote, because they weren't here with documentation.

    So, they're ineligible. But about 95 percent of young Latinos were born here or naturalized, and they're able to vote.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Whether the younger voters turn out is the question; 64-year-old Dora Vasquez is a third-generation Mexican American. She was determined to hold her debate watch party Sunday evening.

  • Dora Vasquez:

    It does concern me, but I don't want to live in fear.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Even as she worried that coronavirus concerns might impact the elections.

  • Dora Vasquez:

    I'm very concerned about the ability to people to get out and meet with voters.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Maricopa County has closed some 80 polling sites and is enacting emergency protocols that allow voters to cast their ballot at any of more than 150 voting centers.

    State Democratic Party officials say the early voting tradition in Arizona might minimize the impact of the outbreak. Vasquez voted early for Senator Elizabeth Warren before she dropped out.

  • Dora Vasquez:

    I wanted Warren to be our president because she's a woman. I have four to five elections left in my lifetime. It was very disappointing.

    It seemed to me that, you know, the good old boys system was in play again.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Besides the growing Hispanic population, the other major factor affecting Arizona politics is the number of out-of-state residents moving here.

    The Phoenix metro area is the fastest growing in America. And a lot of those so-called transplants bring their politics with them.

    East of Phoenix lie the affluent Scottsdale suburbs, which includes zip code 85255, one of the top sources of Trump campaign donations in 2016.

    Lane Menkel and Mike Watt moved here from Connecticut.

  • Mike Watt:

    Well, I'll tell you, when I told my great friends that I was moving, my best friend, now unfortunately gone, he said, Mike, you cannot move to Arizona. I said, why? He said, because it's too Republican. You know, you're going to perish.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    They didn't perish, and, in fact, found a group of like-minded folks in the area who meet every Sunday to talk politics.

  • Mike Watt:

    We have one or two nice Republican people, but the rest are Democrats. So that's very nourishing for us.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Several members were absent this week due to coronavirus concerns, and extra precautions were taken, but the conversations were no less vibrant.

  • Woman:

    Arizona is a pivotal state.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    The talk centered around which candidate was best equipped to beat President Trump.

    How many of you are supporting Vice President Joe Biden in this?

    If Bernie Sanders ends up the Democratic nominee, how many of you will still come out and vote for Sanders?

  • Woman:

    Oh, you have to. You have to, because then it's Trump.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    The 2018 midterm victories for Democrats made it clear the state is in flux.

    Garcia describes the dynamics using a quintessential Arizona analogy of haboobs, intense dust storms typical here in the summers.

  • Joe Garcia:

    So, you have the two haboobs, the homegrown Latino voters who are coming up for the first time, and then, of course, the newcomers who are moving into Arizona with their own politics. So the two haboobs hitting, we will see, when the dust settles, where it all is.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Stephanie Sy in Phoenix.

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