Young Latino voters in Seattle view November election through lens of pandemic

The World
Delia Ramirez, a restaurant worker, hangs aprons to dry at her home in the Bella-B Mobile Home Park, where owner Yacov Sinai decreased rents to help residents in difficult economic situations due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Across the United States, people of color are likeliest to be considered “essential workers” and must still go to work despite stay-at-home orders. Blacks and Latinos are likelier than whites to be diagnosed with COVID-19 — and to die of the disease. 

Those experiences are shaping how people from those groups will vote in the November presidential election. 

Seventeen-year-old Michelle Aguilar Ramirez is a first-time voter and US citizen of Guatemalan descent who lives in Seattle. She worries how the pandemic will affect her family — particularly her mother, who is undocumented. 

“I'm first generation, and obviously like — sometimes it's hard because my mom is a single mom,” Aguilar Ramirez said. “She can barely get ends meet, even though she works and works ... over time, she still can't figure it out. And I feel like my mom is not the only person struggling with that.” 

Related: Every 30 seconds, a young Latino in the US turns 18. Their votes count more than ever.

Washington was the first place in the US to see a major outbreak of the coronavirus. Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency in February as the first patients started dying. The state reports about 10,000 confirmed cases so far. 

Like many young Latinos in Seattle, Aguilar Ramirez leans Democrat. But she said she feels disenchanted by the presumed Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden, as well as his challenger Sen. Bernie Sanders, who recently dropped out of the race. Aguilar Ramirez said the issues most important to her are climate change and immigration. The coronavirus pandemic has only underscored the positive changes she wants to see for her family. 

The World’s host Marco Werman spoke to Esmy Jimenez, an immigration reporter with KUOW in Seattle, about how the coronavirus is shaping the political views and voting decisions of young Latinos in Washington. Jimenez is working with The World on “Every 30 Seconds,” a yearlong series exploring the Latino youth vote. 

Listen to the full story above.

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