US election 2020 will see greatest number of Latino voters ever — and they could decide key swing states

US election 2020 will see greatest number of Latino voters ever — and they could decide key swing states
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24 October 2020
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After a Sunday service at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart Church in Washington DC, Laura Hernandez stops to talk about politics.

Her first instinct is to explain that "even though sometimes they want us to be quiet", we should not be afraid to talk about our beliefs.

Ms Hernandez speaks with conviction when she explains why she is supporting Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

"Joe Biden is more fair and has more humanity than Trump," she said.

"Trump is creating more hate in people."

The 10:00am service is in English. The midday version is in Spanish and Latin Americans from across the region come to hear it.

The church sits in the north-west of the city in an area that has long been the heart of its Latino community.

Ms Hernandez came to the United States from Mexico 23 years ago. She originally moved to support her sister and young niece, but she has since raised three children of her own.

She has the right to vote and she has already cast it for the Democrats.

"I've heard from some Latino people and they say they're supporting Trump because of the economy," she said.

"But the economy is not everything in the world."

A man wearing a beanie and a white mask with a black jacket stands at a table covered in food containers

A vendor sells chicken tacos and plantains to churchgoers.(ABC News: Emily Clark)

The Latino vote is complicated

For the first time, Latino voters are this year expected to be the largest racial or ethnic minority group to vote in a United States presidential election.

US election 2020

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Of the 60 million Latinos who are estimated to live in the US, about 32 million are eligible to vote — that's 13.3 per cent of all eligible voters.

And given the number of eligible Latino voters in key swing states, including Florida and Arizona, they could have a huge impact on the final result.

Among the 32 million eligible Latino voters, there are different personal circumstances, values, beliefs and political priorities. It makes referring to the group as a singular voting bloc difficult to do, even inappropriate.

A Cuban-American in Florida is unlikely to vote the same way as a Mexican-American in Pennsylvania.

Ms Hernandez said at the moment, there was a reluctance among people in her community to talk about which way they were voting, particularly if it was in support of Mr Biden.

"Maybe they're not very open because Trump is in power right now so they prefer to be quiet … and they do what they have to do without telling anybody," she said.

Two men wearing masks and jackets sit on milk crates hunched over a red and yellow checker board as another man watches on

In the heart of the Salvadorian neighbourhood in Washington DC, men sit and play checkers.(ABC News: Emily Clark)

Senior writer and editor at the Pew Research Centre Jens Manuel Krogstad said Latino voters had historically leaned Democrat.

"The Latino vote is quite diverse," he said.

"There isn't really a singular 'Latino vote' because it's not a monolith.

"That said, we do see some clear trends among Latinos where a notable majority lean Democratic, but there's still a sizable share who lean Republican.

"And that reflects the varied background of Latinos."

In the US, Latino voters and their families come from various countries — including Mexico, Venezuela, El Salvador, Cuba, Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Guatemala— and each one has its own social, economic and political histories.

Voters from the US territory of Puerto Rico are also part of the Latino mix.

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