Every 30 Seconds: A Look Back At A First-Time Arizona Voter's Wild Election Year

By Michel Marizco
Published: Friday, January 15, 2021 - 5:05am
Updated: Friday, January 15, 2021 - 7:33am

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Diaz family
Adela Diaz
Adela Diaz (center) and her brother, George III; her father, George Jr.; and her mother, Debbie Diaz.

Adela Diaz recalled a tense night on Nov. 3, after she voted in her first U.S. presidential election. 

“I’m going to be honest with you. There was a moment on election night when everything just seemed very bleak,” she said. 

With the vote too close to call in several states on election night and President Donald Trump ahead in key states, she didn’t know what she’d wake up to find the next morning. 

“The margins were too close and I had to go to bed because I had to go to school the next morning. And not that it would have done me any good to stay up. Because we didn’t get any real news for a few more days,” she said.

One event that wasn’t in doubt by late that night: Arizona was heading blue. For the first time in decades, it would have two Democrat senators.

“My vote for a Democrat — my state that traditionally votes Republican. Not doing that? That felt so good,” she said.

I spoke with Adela and her parents, Debbie and George Diaz, as I have so many times during 2020, over Zoom. Right before the new year, I wanted to ask them: what do you want from 2021?

“We need peace,” said her mother, Debbie Diaz. “That’s the biggest take from all of this, was how divided everyone is, whether it’s family, friends, you may not have friends anymore. You may have conflicts with your family, all because of this.”

And for Adela Diaz?

“Hopefully we won’t all be locked up in our houses in the next election. I won’t freak out when someone with a petition tries to approach me and their mask isn’t on right,” she said.

So Diaz’s party of choice won but she was primarily an Elizabeth Warren supporter a year ago. Today she remains less ecstatic with the Democrat’s choosing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

It’s a common refrain from many young Latino voters I spoke to: anyone but Trump. The lobbying group Voto Latino estimates 75% of Latino voters in Arizona voted for Biden.

“Unfortunately I have to go with what the DNC wants me to go with and so if they end up choosing Kamala as their candidate, then yes she will have my vote in 2024,” Diaz said.

Adela’s father hopes when that next election comes Latinos aren’t just lumped together into some assumed voter group.

“Our priorities are much like everybody else’s priorities, we want to be safe, we want to have good schools. We want to have dependable infrastructure. I don’t think anyone can argue with that,” he said.

He also hopes that will lead to more effective outreach in the 2022 midterms. 

"Our priorities are much like everybody else’s priorities, we want to be safe, we want to have good schools. We want to have dependable infrastructure."
— George Diaz

With the elections behind her, Adela is turning her focus to college.  She just began her second year as a public health major, and all but one of her classes is online this semester. Universities are taking precautions as another wave of coronavirus infections grapples the state.

That’s why Adela continues to be interested in health disparities — and more so now, after seeing the impacts of the pandemic on Black and brown communities.

“You hate to watch it happen but again, what kind of people are essential workers? Many of them are low income people of color. Who was disproportionately affected? Essential workers. People living in multi-family homes. People who can’t quarantine without hurting their other family members,” Adela said.

The virus and a wild, deadly election year laid those realities bare.

“Now a year later, I feel the same, just more passionate, for sure," she said. 

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. 

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