Ricky Hurtado, the first Latino candidate to run for North Carolina's House of Representatives, poses for a portrait by a mural in Graham on March 10, 2020. It's been a tumultuous few months for Hurtado. In November, the 32-year-old son of a Salvadoran im

Every 30 Seconds

What impact will Latino voters have on North Carolina in the future?

Political organizers in North Carolina are looking to Arizona and Georgia for inspiration on how to turn the state from red to blue in presidential elections moving forward.

Player utilities

Listen to the story.

Ricky Hurtado, the first Latino candidate to run for North Carolina's House of Representatives, poses for a portrait by a mural in Graham on March 10, 2020. It's been a tumultuous few months for Hurtado. In November, the 32-year-old son of a Salvadoran immigrant won a seat in the North Carolina Legislature as a Democrat representing a suburban slice of Alamance County.

Credit:

Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Latino voters were a major factor in electing President Joe Biden in the 2020 election. 

A report by UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative showed that they helped flip two states — Arizona and Georgia — where they collectively make up about 80% of the nation’s Latino electorate, along with 11 other states.

Related: This young Latina calls health insurance ‘life-changing.’ She hopes Biden will help everyone get it.

Now, organizers in North Carolina are looking to Arizona and Georgia for inspiration on how to turn the state from red to blue in presidential elections moving forward.

Siembra NC’s organizing director, Juan Miranda, said he’s ready to see the outcome of Latinos and organizers fighting years of anti-immigrant rhetoric and racism in their communities when they go to the polls.

“For the past several elections … the actual impact that [the] Latino vote had was the result of the amazing work — the organizing work — that took place for years to mobilize those folks.”

Juan Miranda, Siembra NC

“For the past several elections … the actual impact that [the] Latino vote had was the result of the amazing work — the organizing work — that took place for years to mobilize those folks," he said. 

Related: Latino teen hopes the Republican Party can reform itself

The Latino population is growing rapidly in North Carolina — it went from 75,000 in 1990, to almost 1 million today. The turnout for Latino voters was almost three times higher than it was in 2016, according to NC Democracy. That’s important because the growing Latino vote is influential.

Arizona was one of the biggest surprises of the 2020 election as the historically red state flipped blue for Biden. And now, for the first time since 1953, the state is sending two Democrats to the Senate.

Jason Husser, Elon University political science professor and director of the Elon Poll, said migration can be a major factor in changing a state’s political influence.

“People can work wherever their employer will allow them to, they don't necessarily have to be in one particular location,” he said. “As companies move from expensive states to cheaper states and relocate workers, we're going to continue to see pretty big demographic shifts and those are going to have political impacts.”

Related: After 2020 election, first-time Latino voter worries about a divided US

Latinos supported Biden over former President Donald Trump by a margin of at least 2 to 1, and nationwide, there was a 30.9% increase in Latino votes over the 2016 election.

Husser said North Carolina might not go blue for the next two to three election cycles but will still remain a purple state. He also said the state isn’t losing residents as it’s growing, but he said the growth is “asymmetric.”

“The places that are growing tend to be urban counties or suburbs around those urban counties,” he said. “The places that are planning to grow are those that are the rural areas, the traditional places where Republicans do well and are not likely to grow much over the next 10 years.”

However, change is happening in historically conservative counties in North Carolina.

An hour west of Raleigh, in Alamance County, there have been marches and protests to incite some kind of change.

The county is known for raids by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which target mostly undocumented Latinos. 

Related: A young Latina voter in Arizona reflects on the contentious 2020 election

Residents there frequently protested over the summer to tear down a Confederate statue that sits in the city of Graham’s town square.

Also, a peaceful march to the polls in the county just a few days before Election Day led to the arrest and pepper-spraying of dozens of activists.

Organizers say these protests are a result of changing demographics — and could happen to the rest of the state. 

Latinos are only 3% of the state’s eligible voters, but North Carolina Hispanic Republican Coalition board member, Cris Patino, said as they grow, it’s important to keep educating them about the political process. 

“Most of them are not very familiarized with what Democrats stand for and what Republicans stand for. They just know what they're told.”

Cris Patino, North Carolina Hispanic Republican Coalition

“Most of them are not very familiarized with what Democrats stand for and what Republicans stand for,” he said. “They just know what they're told.”

North Carolina is made up of many rural counties with a majority of those counties voting for Trump. Even with a Democratic governor, the state still holds on to conservative values. 

However, Patino feels neutral about the state going blue in the future. 

“I’d love to see what we can accomplish as Latinos and how we can help this state accomplish [those things],” he said. “Do I want to see North Carolina going blue or red? Time will tell. We'll see what the leadership does this these next couple years.” 

Over in Georgia, with shifting demographics in major counties throughout the state, Democrats successfully flipped formerly Republican seats at every level of government. Many of the Democratic winners are first-time candidates.

Miranda said now is the time to remain hopeful and take inspiration from Georgia and start getting aggressive.

“We're going to continue expanding what we've been doing,” he said. “A lot of our organizing happens in rural areas. So, we're going to continue growing in those places by mobilizing folks around issues that affect them.”
 

Related Stories

close

We use cookies to understand how you use our site and to improve your experience. To learn more, review our Cookie Policy. By continuing to use our site, you accept our use of cookies and Privacy Policy.

Ok, I understand. Close
close

The story you just read is freely available and accessible to everyone because readers like you support The World financially. 

Thank you all for helping us reach our goal of 1,000 donors. We couldn’t have done it without your support. Your donation directly supported the critical reporting you rely on, the consistent reporting you believe in, and the deep reporting you want to ensure survives. 

DONATE TODAY > No thanks