COMMERCE CITY, COLO. — For Democrats, winning the vote in Colorado and helping to reelect President Obama meant wringing every last Latino vote from the Hispanic neighborhoods in the Denver suburbs. And that meant knocking on door after door along 70th Avenue, a dusty grid on the flats northeast of the city.
Andrea Zaragoza-Ballesteros and Jeramie Chavez, a pair of $12-an-hour canvassers for Mi Familia Vota, a Latino outreach group, squinted at their iPods. A special up-to-the-hour Google map marked with an orange dot each household of a not-yet-voted Democratic Latino.
On Election Day, after more than a month of door-knocking at these tiny square houses on tiny square yards, the number of dots was tiny. Most Latino voters had cast early ballots; the holdouts were the most elusive. The pair hoped to find even one whom Zaragoza-Ballesteros could talk into voting or offer a ride to the polls.
But the yield was tiny. At house after house, there was no answer, no interest or no patience.
“Are you sure Juan’s not here?” Chavez asked a man on one porch.
“He’s not here,” said the man, who wore a mechanic’s shirt with “Juan” embroidered on a patch.
Plenty of Hispanic voters have given canvassers an earful about immigration reform, but they also ranked health care, education and jobs as major concerns.
Mi Familia’s master list for this area had been worked down from 17,000 “infrequent” Hispanic voters in early October to fewer than 2,000 Tuesday. But the canvassers kept walking. Their goal: repeating the unprecedented mobilization of Latino voters that helped Obama carry Colorado in 2008. Colorado’s 270,000 Hispanic voters, who make up nearly 10 percent of the electorate, had made an impact each time.
Finally, on Dahlia Street, Zaragoza-Ballesteros got one. An elderly woman with two chihuahuas swimming around her ankles said she didn’t know it was Election Day. “It’s today? Ooh, my God, I thought it was Saturday,” Frances Macias, 65, said. “Can I still go?”
Zaragoza-Ballesteros was instantly on the phone, telling her field supervisor to drive over with one of the Yellow Cab vouchers donated by Univision. Macias said she would wait.
“Great,” Zaragoza-Ballesteros said as she walked back into the sun, clicking “Will Vote” by Macias’s name. “One more.”