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Government/Politics

How COVID-19 Is Influencing Voters' Ballots: 'This Administration Changed Our Ways'

Webb Cason PC holds a drive-thru celebration for their Joe Biden and Kamala Harris banner, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, in downtown
Annie Rice/Caller-Times/USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters Co
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Webb Cason PC holds a drive-thru celebration for their Joe Biden and Kamala Harris banner in downtown Corpus Christi. Attendees were able to register to vote.

Ana Hernandez worked remotely from home last week in McAllen. She sat at her computer with a headset on.

“Are one or more members of your household currently staying home under the advice from a healthcare provider due to a positive COVID-19 diagnostic test, known exposure to COVID-19, or symptoms or complications from COVID-19?” she asked the person on the other end of the line.

Hernandez is part of a COVID-19 task force for New York City. She’s been helping people with things like getting food delivered to people in quarantine, assisting people get tested for the virus and helping people find a polling place so they can vote safely.

“Are you able to go out and get food yourself?” she asked into her headset.

Hernandez started this job a couple of months ago during the pandemic. She previously worked as a medical office specialist at a clinic in the Rio Grande Valley. She said doctors weren’t hearing her concerns, or those of her colleagues.

“So, I quit before because of that,” Hernandez said. “I said, no, these doctors are not willing to protect us.’”

Now, she said, she knows people who’ve died from coronavirus, like thousands of other Latinos.

One region of Texas that has been hit hard by COVID-19 is the Rio Grande Valley. Since the pandemic began, the virus has killed more than 3,300 people in the area. COVID-19 has upended many RGV residents’ lives, including Hernandez, but it’s made her and others more motivated to vote.

“Poll after poll is showing that the Latino voter cares a lot about health, the economy and most importantly COVID-19,” said Rodrigo Dominguez-Villegas, director of research at the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA.

Hernandez Biden Supporter Outside Home
Courtesy of Ana Hernandez
Ana Hernandez poses in front of her Biden sign in front of her home.

He’s also the co-author of a report on the top issues Latino voters care about, which includes the economy, racial inequality, healthcare and COVID-19, in swing states where Latinos make up more than 20% of the electorate. The states included in the report are Arizona, Florida, Nevada and Texas.

“More than ever before, Latinos have the power to decisively swing the 2020 presidential election in favor of one presidential ticket because of the growth of this electorate in 4 key battleground states,” said the report. “The number and proportion of Latino voters in these 4 states have risen considerably over the last 4 election cycles.”

Dominguez-Villegas explained one of the reasons why COVID-19 is among one of the top issues for Latino voters.

“Latinos have 2.8 times more chance of getting COVID-19 than whites. Once they get it they’re 4.6 times more likely to get hospitalized than whites,” he said. “Health-wise, COVID-19 is affecting the Latino community particularly hard, much harder than it is affecting other demographic groups.”

This is likely, according to the report, because there’s an overrepresentation of Latinos in essential jobs and sectors like agriculture and construction, jobs where it’s hard to maintain social distance, or where they’re not able to work from home.

“Also there’s a lot of Latinos in the health industry, so a lot of nurses, a lot of doctors are Latinos,” he said.

The data Dominguez-Villegas analyzed shows Latino voters want to see a clear plan and leadership to stop the virus, which is something Hernandez can relate to.

“I’ve always been active in the community, but this administration has changed me, my job. It’s changed my family, it’s changed my faith,” she said. “Before I would just go vote, sometimes I’d vote Republican, but because of this administration we changed our ways of looking into everything.”

The virus and the election have disrupted her home and personal life, too. Hernandez said she’s stopped talking to people who have made fun of her and her family for taking precautions against the virus.

“I’m one of the few of my family and friends who does not support Trump,” she said.

Hernandez has three adult children. One son and her daughter are voting for former Vice President Biden, but her other son, who is 26-years-old, is not.

“He for some reason thinks, like many other people, that this is not serious,” Hernandez said. “He listens to Trump, so he doesn’t take precautions.”

Her son lived in Louisiana, but Hernandez said when his workplace closed its doors because of the virus he came back home, but he kept going out with his friends. She remembers one night when he was home.

“I couldn’t sleep just thinking this virus is going to kill one of us,” she said. “It’s going to kill my daughter, it’s going to kill my husband, or me and it was because of him.”

Her daughter is a cancer survivor.

“I love him, but it got to the point that I said, ‘Okay you can’t stay home, you want to be out going to your barbershop, going to bars, I cannot go to sleep because you do this. I’m going to ask you to leave the house for your own good and for my own good because I’m going crazy like this,’” Hernandez said. “And he left.”

A polling site where Ana Hernandez decided to early vote
Courtesy of Ana Hernandez
A polling site where Ana Hernandez decided to early vote

Hernandez is in a slight majority in Texas.

According to a Dallas Morning News and University of Texas at Tyler poll, Biden is leading with 48% percent of support from Texas likely voters, while President Trump is polling at 45% percent. Among Latinos, Biden is polling better than Trump.

Hernandez said she decided to vote early and while she was in line she heard her thoughts echoed by fellow voters.

“I was listening to conversations and they seem to have gotten up early to vote and they want a change. That’s what I was observing,” she said. “That people who had never voted are going. You could hear conversations of, ‘Oh yeah I lost my friend’, or, ‘I lost my comadre’, and I even shared, ‘Yeah I’ve lost many friends.’”

Hernandez said she’s hopeful for a Biden administration.

“We need a leader that’s going to help us control this virus,” she said. “He has to guide us and he has to set an example.”

Hernandez said she believes if Biden is elected he would be able to help bring a quicker end to the COVID-19 pandemic and bring together a divided country.

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