4 Down-Ballot Items Latino Voters in Arizona Should Pay Attention to November 8

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With less than a week to go until Election Day, many have turned their attention toward Arizona – the typically red state that may turn blue in a presidential election for the first time in two decades. Just on Tuesday, FiveThirtyEight published a piece breaking down how Mexican-American voters have contributed to the shifting dynamics in Arizona and the United States. And while Donald Trump currently edges out Hillary Clinton in Arizona, the state has oscillated between light blue and light red for weeks.

As the media zeroes in on whether Arizona will turn blue – especially as swing states become increasingly important for Trump’s campaign – it doesn’t always report on down ballot measures that can have more direct effect than even who becomes president. From the penitentiary system to minimum wage, here are four down-ballot candidates and propositions Latino voters should pay attention to:


Maricopa County Sheriff

Joe Arpaio. Photo by Darren Hauck/EPA

Joe Arpaio has served as Maricopa County Sheriff for 23 years, and groups are aggressively working to get him out of office. Bazta Arpaio, for example, has brought together a group of young activists intent on stopping him. Arapaio’s reign has defined most of their lives. For way too long, they’ve heard about his inhumane tent city jail and racial profiling of Latinos. Or worse, they’ve seen their loved ones on the receiving end of his policies.

As the race hits the home stretch, Arpaio has more to worry about that being 15 points behind opponent Paul Penzone. Just last week, a federal court indicted Arpaio for criminal contempt in a case involving racial profiling. Back in 2011, U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow issued a preliminary injunction that ordered him to stop unlawfully detaining Latino drivers. But the racial profiling continued to happen – something Arpaio and his deputies fessed up to but said wasn’t intentional. Snow didn’t buy this explanation – instead arguing that Arpaio defied the law because he thought it’d give him a better shot at winning his 2012 re-election bid, according to NPR. If convicted, Arpaio may serve as much as six months in jail, but he could continue to serve as sheriff should he win.

Related: 5 Young Activists Working to Unseat Joe Arpaio, Arizona’s Infamous Anti-Immigrant Sheriff

Arpaio has heavily aligned with Donald Trump – someone who’s spent a year and a half insulting and instilling fear in immigrant communities. But with its “End Arpaio’s Rule, Prevent Trump’s Rise” slogan, Bazta is using this link to its advantage.

Penzone, who has spent 21 years as a Phoenix police officer, outlines his opposition to Tent City and racial profiling on his website. With Arizona being one of the states with the highest incarceration rates, he also addresses mass incarceration. “There is a serious problem with the priorities in Maricopa County when we’re spending more on incarcerated inmates than the education of our children,” the site reads. “Our prison system must be reformed. This requires comprehensive improvement in mental health services, substance abuse programs, educational offerings and appropriate post-incarceration opportunities that reduce recidivism. As the largest jail system in the county, MCSO plays a crucial role in reform that will ultimately make our community safer.”


Maricopa County Attorney

Diego Rodriguez

Another important race in Maricopa County is between former prosecutor Diego Rodriguez and current Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. Republican candidate Montgomery, who has served since 2010, doesn’t have a good track record with Latinos or other communities of color. A few years ago, The Phoenix New Times explained how it’s time for the Latino community to dump Montgomery, who’s closely tied to Arpaio. “He continues to pursue discriminatory charging practices when it comes to undocumented individuals, holding them non-bondable as a result, thereby coercing a guilty plea and guaranteeing their deportations,” the publication reported.

And it doesn’t just stop there. He’s also notoriously bad when it comes to the death penalty. According to Daily Kos, under Montgomery’s rule, Maricopa has become one of the biggest administers the death penalty. As a matter of fact, at 28 death sentences, Maricopa has turned to the death penalty more often than 99.5 percent of other counties/county equivalents. A Harvard Law School Fair Punishment Project report states that “Maricopa’s rate of death sentencing per 100 homicides is approximately 2.3 times higher than the rate for the rest of Arizona. Though Maricopa has one percent of the nation’s population, it accounts for 3. percent of the death sentences returned nationally between 2010 and 2015.”

The number’s certainly astonishing, but so is the kind of people he ends up targeting. Between 2010 and 2015, about 62 percent of those sentenced to death had “intellectual disability, severe mental illness, or brain damage.” 57 percent of them were people of color. And even though Maricopa only has a six percent African-American population, 18 percent of those sentenced to death were black.

As Montgomery states that another four-year term will ensure his changes are long-lasting, Rodriguez calls Montgomery a “political animal. He’s not what I am comfortable having administer justice in this county.” Rodriguez also states that Montgomery has mishandled many cases.

Looking to the future, AZ Central reports that if elected, Rodriguez would up the funding from 3 percent to at least 10 for diversion and recidivism programs. He also wants to create an independent citizen review board to keep police officers accountable.


Proposition 205: Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act

More than 200,000 people signed a petition to get Proposition 205 on the November 8 ballot. If it were up to Bill Montgomery, the proposition would not pass. Montgomery has been staunch opponent of legalizing marijuana. Earlier this year, he even warned that a spike in deadly heroin overdoses were a result of marijuana use – which many have gone on to dispute. If it passes, there will be a 15 percent marijuana tax – funds that will be allocated to public health and education. As both sides battle it out, a $4 million “NO” campaign has said that the revenue from Colorado’s marijuana sales haven’t actually gone to schools and that children are smoking more weed as a result of decriminalization. Colorado has chimed in and ask opposers to stop lying.

And while that’s mildly amusing, one thing to keep in mind when it comes to this proposition is that marijuana possession arrests more commonly affect people of color, according to the FBI. Data on how many Latinos end up arrested because of weed-related infractions is not readily available. In 2013, however, the American Civil Liberties Union reported that African-Americans are twice as likely to be arrested for weed in Arizona.

The ACLU hypothesizes that the numbers are likely skewed because the FBI might classify most Latinos as white. “That is, if many of those ‘white’ arrests are actually arrests of latinos, and if the Latino arrest rate is greater than the white arrest rate, the actual Black-white arrest rates are much greater than the disparities contained in the present data,” the report states. “How much greater, unfortunately, cannot be ascertained from the present FBI/UCR data.”


Proposition 206: The Fair Wages and Healthy Families Act

Proposition 206 aims to raise the current minimum wage of $8.05 to $10 in 2017 and eventually to $20 by 2020. And it’s also pushing for improved time-off policies by including mental and physical illness, as well as needing to take care of a sick family member. Depending on the size of the business, workers will receive 1 hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. According to according to a recent Arizona Republic/Morrison/Cronkite News poll, about 58 percent of the 779 voters polled were in favor of the measure. 10 percent hadn’t decided and 32 percent were against it.