By Len Ramirez

SAN JOSE (KPIX) — The role of Latino voters will be significant in the 2020 presidential election, no matter who wins and it could be breaking down some stereotypical assumptions about the so-called Latino voting bloc.

Cuban Americans are being credited with helping President Trump win the state of Florida while Mexican Americans may be a reason why the state of Arizona could flip to Joe Biden.

Both groups are grouped under the Latino umbrella but this election is highlighting how different they really are.

“You can’t lump all Latinos into one pot and say ‘this is how they’re going to vote,'” said Maritza Maldonado, one of the organizers of the Si Se Puede Collective, a grassroots effort to get more Latinos to vote in San Jose.

“The Si Se Puede Collective worked really, really hard. We probably knocked on every door in this neighborhood,” Maldonado said outside her office on Alum Rock Avenue.

Anecdotal evidence says those efforts paid off.

The vote center at the Mexican Heritage Plaza in east San Jose was one of the city’s busiest on election night with long lines of young voters, most of them Latino.

“I just wanted my voice to be heard, so I got off work, went home, got my ballot and did the decision that I think will be best for our country,” said one voter who just got off work at a construction site.

Overall voter turnout in the heavily-Latino east side was about ten percent less than other parts of San Jose according to the registrar of voters and Latino voters showed up at the polls later in the day, with many squeezing in just before polls closed.

Many of the voters here are working two jobs and have other economic pressures, which diminishes turnout.

“Not everyone voted who could have. There is disenfranchisement,” Maldonado said.

“I think there’s a real opportunity for us to do a deeper dive with numbers from zip codes and precincts in east San Jose. That’s our next work and see how we can continue to engage voters.”

Democrats have long counted on the support of Latinos; Republicans want to build on the support they received in this election.

Even if turnout is still a work in progress, Maldonado said this year shows how neither party can take Latinos for granted.

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