"What is it to be a Democrat?" Talking to first time voters in Las Vegas
The Latinx* community is quite likely to vote blue, but Democrats have historically done a poor job turning out the Latinx vote. Team Nevada helped tackle that gap by canvassing in the largely Latinx and Black neighborhoods of east Las Vegas. Working alongside the state Democratic party and the unusually strong local Culinary Union (described by its spokesperson as the state’s largest immigrant organization), their efforts are key to winning the Latinx vote for the midterms.
“It’s been extraordinary,” said Suzanne Olsen, “the reaction we’ve gotten, the appreciation for getting early voting information out to people.” A large percentage of voters they spoke to had never before experienced personal outreach and were eager to have their voices heard. Shelly Crocker recalled walking up to a home where six men in their early 20s were hanging around outside. “They were all going to vote Democratic, and they were going to do it soon. They weren’t even on my list!” One voter already had voted Democratic and had a message for the opposition: “We’re not an angry mob. We’re angry moms, angry grandmothers, angry daughters.”
Nevada is attracting national attention for its Senate race, with Democrat Jacky Rosen poised to flip a seat currently held by a Republican. In fact, former President Obama and Vice President Biden both visited to support Rosen’s campaign while Team Nevada was in town; President Trump had stumped for her opponent a week earlier. There is reason to believe the excitement and GOTV efforts may just lead to the hoped-for blue wave: turnout on the first day of voting shattered previous records.
In east Las Vegas, enthusiasm was high, but voters also had many questions. Volunteers were surprised by some of the challenges that voters faced. In Nevada, you can run an errand and vote at the same location – say, your local Albertson’s – but the early voting polling places can move from day to day. That makes early voting both convenient and confusing. Doug Coutts recalled speaking with a young man whose only internet access was his mother’s mobile phone. “I talked with him for 20 minutes. It was hard for him to access information about the election.” Another voter had vision problems and couldn’t see her ballot properly. Suzanne and Maria helped her look up information about the candidates.
A Canadian immigrant, Doug found speaking to new citizens particularly poignant. “For a guy like me who found it easy to become a citizen, it was touching to meet people who found citizenship much more difficult to accomplish. I met several people who had such pride for being American and being a new voter,” he recalled through tears.
At one home, a newly registered voter asked, “What is it to be a Democrat?” She had heard of President Obama and was excited about him, but she didn’t understand the nuances of our government and the political parties. Thanks to the local Democratic party, they were able to give her a ticket to see Obama speak the next day. Team leader Maria summed up the experience: “Voters weren’t feeling super informed when we knocked on their doors. But there was an overwhelming amount of enthusiasm. Even if they didn’t know where to vote, they were asking for pamphlets and they were determined to vote.”