MIAMI (Reuters) – The man answering a volunteer’s knock on the door in the Kendall section of Miami-Dade County on Saturday was emphatic: Not only would he vote but “esperamos que la presidenta gane” – Spanish for “we hope Madam President wins.”
Volunteers across Florida made a last-minute push to get voters to the polls this weekend with early voting ending on Sunday ahead of Election Day on Tuesday, pitting Republican Donald Trump against Democrat Hillary Clinton, or “la presidenta,” as the man at the door called her.
Latino voters like the man in Kendall and elsewhere could have an outsized influence in Tuesday’s election. Early voting data may portend a jump in the number of Hispanic voters this year, especially in the key swing states of Florida and Nevada.
Clinton has polled much stronger among Latino voters nationwide, suggesting she would benefit more from a surge in early voting in those two states, voting experts say. Trump has fared poorly in that demographic, having repeatedly angered Hispanics with disparaging comments about their communities.
A recent poll conducted by the firms The Tarrance Group and Bendixen and Amandi found that Hispanic registered voters in Florida favor Clinton 60 percent to 30 percent. In Nevada the gap was even wider – 72 percent for Clinton and 19 percent for Trump.
In Florida, the Clinton campaign estimates early Latino voting is up 139 percent, or more than twice as much, compared to 2012, according to a field report dated Wednesday.
Democratic strategist Steve Schale, a Florida expert, estimated that 170,000 more Hispanics had voted early or by mail as of Wednesday than had voted early or by mail in the entire 2012 election, according to a post on his blog.
“And keep in mind, because Hispanic is a self-identifying marker, studies have found that the real Hispanic vote is larger than the registration. So while Hispanics might make up 14.2 percent of the voters who have voted so far, in reality, the number is larger,” he wrote.
But the raw data leave a number of questions. Will Latinos keep up the higher turnout rates on Election Day? For which candidate did they vote? Will turnout from Latinos and other minorities make enough of a difference to swing Florida and other states?
Trump kicked off his maverick campaign last year by calling many Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals, and his relationship with Latinos hardly improved from there. From his calls to build a wall on the border and have Mexico pay for it, to comments that an American-born judge could not do his job because of his Mexican heritage, Trump has consistently had low polling figures with Latinos across the country.
The state of Nevada does not note race or ethnicity on its voter registration but other data there suggest Latinos also are turning out in force.
DEMOCRATIC EDGE IN KEY COUNTY
For one thing, Clark County has seen a surge in early voting. Between in-person and absentee voting, registered Democrats have now returned over 72,000 more ballots than registered Republicans there. Those figures do not indicate which candidate voters picked, only the party with which the voters are registered.
Friday alone saw 57,172 votes in person in Clark County. Photos making the rounds on social media showed especially long lines at a Cardenas market voting site, which stayed open late to accommodate the surge of voters.
Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, has a large Latino population – 30.6 percent, compared to 28.1 percent for Nevada as a whole, according to the U.S. Census.
Even more Republican votes elsewhere in the state are so far not enough to counterbalance that Democratic lead in Clark County. Overall, the Democrats have cast around 46,000 more ballots in Nevada than Republicans.
That’s not an accident, said Artie Blanco, the Nevada state coordinator for the progressive group For Our Future. Her organization and others banded together in a major get-out-the-vote push, especially among voters of color, and the coalition’s data suggest that the effort paid off.
Twenty-two percent of Democrats who voted on Friday had a conversation with someone from that progressive coalition at some point after Oct. 15, Blanco said. Among Latino voters on the last three voting days, the coalition had conversations with 14 percent of them after Oct. 15, according to the group’s data.
Trump on Saturday hit out at the early voters in Nevada, looking to undermine the state’s results before Election Day.
“They didn’t get the kind of vote that they needed to stop us on Tuesday,” Trump said in Reno. “Tuesday is our day in this state.”
He said Reno and northern Nevada could “carry us all the way to Washington.”
But Blanco said the votes were instead the result of major work to bring out voters, especially people of color and that progressive organizations were not done yet.
“We have all these voters that we need to now go back and say, ‘You’ve got one day,’” she said of those who had not yet cast ballots.
(Writing and reporting by Luciana Lopez; Additional reporting by Emily Stephenson; Editing by Bill Trott and Mary Milliken)
IMAGE: Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a “Latinos for Hillary” rally in San Antonio, Texas October 15, 2015. REUTERS/Darren Abate