Every 30 Seconds: Arizona Voters Head To The Polls
I first met Adela Diaz on an idyllic warm day on the University of Arizona campus. It was a blue February day, and the first victim of the coronavirus in the U.S. had already died; but nobody knew that — yet.
Rather, throngs of students strolled the campus; they filled the seats of the outside patios on their lunch breaks. They played with frisbees on the main lawn. Arizona’s totemic saguaro cactus were just showing the first indications of a spring bloom that was just weeks away.
“I remember someone approached us and tried to get us to sign some kind of petition,” Adela said.
Nine months later and all that changed; 1 million people have died of the virus, and Adela’s own life was upturned like so many of us now, her college years reduced to an apartment, a packed schedule of classes on Zoom and a laptop.
She rarely goes to campus now where even gathering in small groups is banned. But she did go recently.
“And some guy approached me with a petition and his mask was on incorrectly. Like it wasn’t covering his nose. And I was so, I was like, ‘How dare you. How dare you walk up to me with the audacity with this petition and I just gave him the dirtiest look,” she said.
Arizona is not a battleground state because of voters like Adela. But the voters President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden are fighting for here are a huge bloc of voters who simply haven’t stated who they want yet.
Arizona voters are mostly divvied into three categories: Republican — they hold about 35% of registered voters; Democratic — about 32%; and then "other." Those “other” voters make up another 32%. And they’re the reason the two candidates keep coming back to Arizona this fall to campaign.
Among Latinos, polls find Biden ahead, sometimes 2 to 1. Biden has been running an ad in Arizona extolling Latinos in critical industries.
“In the midst of this godawful pandemic, we’ve seen more clearly than ever how much we rely on people with Hispanic roots to keep our country running,” he said.
Adela has already made up her mind. When I first met her, she was a vehement Sen. Elizabeth Warren voter. Then she hoped Sen. Bernie Sanders would win. Now she’s not so much voting for Biden as she is against Trump whom she says let the U.S. down.
“At first, I just assumed America’s got it. We got this. There’s a virus in china. There’s a couple of cases here. Ebola got here. It was fine. I just assumed it was going to be contained, not an issue,” she said.
She says she assumed the president’s war talk from last spring meant he’d unite the country against the pandemic.
Instead, she says Trump worked to divide the country on its fault lines, from race to masks.
“That man can’t represent me. He doesn’t even want to! He would never me in mind as someone who he’s asking policies and fighting for. He wouldn’t even pretend,” she said.
Adela, a public health major has been consistent about what she wants in a sitting president: chiefly universal health care. Her roommate Alexa Basualdo will ultimately specialize in nuclear medicine. Like Adela, the Texas native will vote for the first time. Her favorite aspect of Biden? Kamala Harris.
“He was very particular with his vice president candidate. He was very methodical about it. He really wanted to please the voters. And that tells me that he’s listening to us. So that gives me some hope,” she said.
With mere weeks to go, Adela has never been more clear that she wants Trump voted out in his first term. But up there with that hope: a vaccine.
“But especially I’m hoping that someone who’s in charge of this focuses on low income areas to distribute it,” Adela said.
Adela’s been consistent the entire year on her wishes during an inconsistent political year.
This story is part of "Every 30 Seconds," a collaborative public media reporting project tracing the young Latino electorate leading up to the 2020 presidential election and beyond.