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San Francisco Bay Area Latino Voters' Main Concerns: COVID-19, Healthcare, Economy

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Whether it's Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden playing the popular song "Despacito" at a rally or President Donald Trump posing with Goya Bean products, these simple attempts at appealing to Latino voters don't work.

The powerful voting bloc needs more.

"Why do white people come out to vote in large numbers? Because they get talked to all the time, " said Christian Arana, policy director at Latino Community Foundation. "They get sent the mailers, they get the TV ads, they come to their town halls, they have a conversation with them that doesn't happen enough with Latinos. And that needs to change."

Latinos are expected to be the largest minority voting bloc this November and could help determine the outcome of the presidential race. So what do Bay Area Latino voters care most about?

The common misperception is immigration. But recent polls show while it's an important issue, the top three concerns are actually COVID-19, healthcare and the economy.

Not surprising to South San Francisco Latina voter, Nancy Rosales, who saw her online paletas shop passed over for federal business-related pandemic relief.

"I think life is sometimes not fair," Rosales said. "And so figuring out who will make that choice of 'Hey, you ended up in this situation' let's balance it out."

Balancing equal access is a core issue.

Lilibeth Gangas of LTX Fest, a Bay Area-based technology festival geared toward Latino entrepreneurs, says it's a group least represented in the tech sector.

"Not many people of color so if we don't even have the opportunity to even enter the innovation economy, how are we supposed to continue in these times?" Gangas said.

So Gangas is not surprised that today's political playing field can lack representation, reliable information and, perhaps most importantly, recognition of diversity within the Latino community making it a voting block that can be hard to reach.

"We have so many different intersectional identities, backgrounds, differences even in the immigration issue," Gangas said.

But COVID-19 may emerge as the unlikely unifier in this election cycle as it pushes tech towards voter engagement.

LTX Fest 2020 drew 7,000 virtual attendees, and a recent virtual voter rally held by Latino Community Foundation featuring activists, entertainers, and an interview with Julian Castro saw thousands of page views. It's a sign that voters are recognizing and engaging with tech outreach.

"That is our power, we have 32-million potential voters that identify as Latinx," Gangas said. "[There are] stats that showed that just if Latinos show up and vote, they can actually change the election."

Just the beginning, says Christian Arana.

"We actually need to come out and vote right?" Arana said. "Whether or not we agree with this president. We have to understand that our vote has power."

A recent study conducted by the non-partisan Washington DC-based Pew Research Center says that two-thirds of Latino voters see Biden as the best choice for president.

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