Starting last Friday, The Guardian published six articles in a series produced in collaboration with USC Annenberg students that examines election issues affecting Hispanic communities across the United States. Seven USC Annenberg graduate journalism students, directed by journalism professors Marc Cooper and Alan Mittelstaedt, set out to answer a host of questions about the U.S. Latino electorate. They worked as part of last summer’s News21 education project that is funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. According to the Guardian:
The students fanned out across America to towns and cities selected in tandem with The Guardian. The towns – in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington state – all have one thing in common: a Hispanic population that is approaching or has already surpassed the majority 50% mark rendering these places “majority-minority” arbiters of the future of the US.
The students’ dispatches provide a fascinating snapshot of the American Latino population as we approach the November presidential election. The first thing that leaps out of them is the diversity of their communities.
The first article, written by recent alumna Raquel Estupinan, explores young Colorado voters who will soon be voting in their first election. “Finally, we’re getting our voices heard,” student Diomara Balbuena told Estupinan after hearing the news that young undocumented people would no longer be deported and could apply for work permits if they met certain requirements. “It’s an unexplainable emotion … to know we’re not being left alone.” USC Annenberg alumnus Jacob Chung wrote the second article in the series, addressing the large number of Latino residents of Reading, Pennsylvania living in poverty, despite President Obama’s promises to help get the city’s residents working again. "I wouldn't have used two years tackling healthcare reform,” said former city councilman Angel Figueroa. Instead President Obama should have focused more on the economy and education, he said. In alumnus Reut R. Cohen’s article for the series, Cohen discusses the importance that the California Latino vote will have in the upcoming election and the Republican hardline approach to immigration laws. "The Latino vote is going to make a big difference," said conservative president of ImmigrationWorks USA Tamar Jacoby. “That's where the divide is in the Republican Party – people who get it and those for whom it doesn't matter."
A surge of political energy in the young Latinos of Arizona is discussed in alumnus Dan Watson’s article for The Guardian. The controversial immigration policies and crackdown by Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio directed the state’s Latino population in the direction of more political involvement. In another article in the series, alumna Christine Detz reports on Poinciana, Florida, the “ultimate swing region” in the “ultimate swing state,” where the growing Latino population holds the power to tip the voting scales in the November election. "If you're going to win an election in this state, especially from Osceola County south, you've got to figure out how you're gonna appeal to Hispanic voters and independents because Republicans are not going to win if they don't," said Danny Sexton, chairman of the Osceola County Republican party.
The most recent article, written by alumna Regina Graham, is about the large Latino population of Yakima County in Washington state and their lack of representation in local government resulting from the current voting system.
"When the people you are voting for are never elected because of the election systems that are in place, when people who don't live in your community are representing you, when people who look like you aren't able to get elected at the local level, that has a really disempowering feeling,” said Toby Guevin, an official with OneAmerica, an advocacy group in support of a new voting act.