Three Women-Led Organizations That Helped Flip Arizona Blue
On Saturday, President-Elect Biden officially won Arizona, turning the state blue for the first time since 1996. This feat, which has been a goal of political campaigns and local advocacy organizations for decades, was accomplished in no small part thanks to the work of women organizers of color throughout the state.
Supermajority News had the chance to talk to organizers from three critical advocacy groups that mobilized voters in their communities, registered new voters, and got folks to the polls about their work and what made 2020 a historic year for their state.
The environmental and social justice organization Chispa AZ, a program of the League of Conservation Voters, has been focused on educating voters about the impact of climate change and how climate justice intersects with racial justice for years.
“Arizona turning blue is a victory a decade in the making and owed to the tireless work and dedication of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people who organize for justice and liberation,” Vianey Olivarria, Chispa AZ’s communication director, told Supermajority News in a statement. Olivarria also noted that Chispa AZ is part of MiAZ, a coalition of local organizations that mobilized to get communities of color out to vote.
And get voters out Chispa AZ did: Olivarria notes that throughout 2020, Chispa AZ’s political action committee made 1.3 million calls to Arizona voters and sent 880,000 pieces of mail, particularly focusing on Latinx voters and other voters of color throughout the state.
But while Arizona made history thanks to the advocacy of its Latinx, Black and Indigenous communities, Olivarria stresses that there is significant work left to be done. “We celebrate this victory, and we look forward to the long-term investment in the infrastructure of the grassroots movement that organizes our communities 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year — not just in an election year,” said Olivarria.
Our Voice, Our Vote Arizona
The Black-led advocacy organization Our Voice, Our Vote Arizona has always been focused on “ensuring that whatever is happening in Arizona benefits people that look like us,” communications director Alexa-Rio Osaki told Supermajority News. “We’re doing what we can to ensure everyone’s represented.”
Like Chispa AZ, Our Voice, Our Vote Arizona is also a member of Mi AZ, which Osaki described as “a pure representation of what diversity looks like, especially in Arizona.” Mi AZ organized field teams, which “were the ones who knocked on millions of doors called millions of folks,” throughout the state, said Osaki. That coalition building was key to voter turnout and support for the Democratic ticket in the state — even though that coordination and voter outreach was particularly challenging given the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent restrictions. As the coalition made the switch to digital campaigning, “we also had to make sure our scripts were still conversational and engaging with people [while] still asking what their needs are,” said Osaki.
But it appears their efforts paid off. Osaki notes that early numbers indicate that Arizona’s Black voter turnout was at an all-time high, with over 60% of Black voters voting in person or by mail in 2020.
While Arizona’s presidential results have understandably received national attention, Osaki says that Our Voice, Our Vote Arizona members will continue to focus on local races and ballot initiatives going forward. “Our first step is to make sure people understand what a local election affects,” she said. “For example, choosing your county attorney or your prosecutor, that affects how our Brown and Black communities are treated like in the system.”
Poder In Action
Since 2013, the Phoenix-based group Poder In Action has been working to elevate the voices of Arizonans of color at both the state and local levels. Viri Hernandez, who became the organization’s executive director in 2016, told Supermajority News that the organization “wanted to be very clear that we were going to build power as undocumented people, young people, and as people of color.” To do that, Poder In Action focused on three main strategies: investing in leadership development, increasing civic engagement, and starting a conversation around policing in neighborhoods of color in Phoenix.
In terms of civic engagement, Poder In Action focused on reaching out to younger voters in particular. They contacted more than 200,000 young Arizonans with information about voting, candidates, and the major issues on the ballot. They also worked to ensure that this information was fully bilingual and that all of their communications were conversational and culturally relevant. “It was mothers talking to mothers and our young people talking to young people,” Hernandez said. “We wanted it to be just natural and the way people talk to each other.”
“A lot of our team are non-voters — we cannot vote because of our immigration status, because of our age, because of incarceration,” said Hernandez. “So our strategies were to assert our power as non-voters to mobilize voters, our families, and our friends through relational organizing.”