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People Who Don't Usually Vote Share Their Thoughts On This Year's Election

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

In a normal election year, it's hard for campaigns to connect with people who never or rarely vote. Now add a global pandemic. In this next story, we go to Pueblo, Colo. - a politically divided community - to hear from people who don't normally vote and hear about what parties are trying to do to change that. Here's Colorado Public Radio's Bente Birkeland.

BENTE BIRKELAND, BYLINE: Colorado has one of the highest voter turnout rates in the country, but about two hours south of Denver in Pueblo, it's not as high. Pueblo is a heavily Latino county with more registered Democrats than Republicans, and while Trump lost Colorado four years ago, he narrowly won Pueblo.

VICTORIA MARQUESEN: It was a shock to those of us living here and a shock to people around the state.

BIRKELAND: Victoria Marquesen is the secretary for Pueblo's Democratic Party.

MARQUESEN: I can remember for six months afterwards, I'd see people throughout the state, and they'd say, what the hell happened to Pueblo County?

BIRKELAND: A lot is at stake this November. Democrats in Pueblo hope to flip an open congressional seat from red to blue, and the party is trying to oust Republican U.S. Senator Cory Gardner, who's in a tight race. But since Democrats aren't doing as much door to door campaigning, they're trying to make inroads in critical places like Pueblo in an old-fashioned way - handwritten, personalized letters.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Do they have stamps? I don't know...

MARQUESEN: No, no, no. I'll pick - we'll pick them up. We'll will pick them up and put stamps on them.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Oh, OK.

MARQUESEN: So they're...

BIRKELAND: Volunteers swing by the party's headquarters to get blank postcards to write. They say handwritten notes can make a difference.

MARQUESEN: These are to people who are Democrats, who vote Democratic when they vote. But you know what? They don't vote very much.

BIRKELAND: Oh.

MARQUESEN: So we're trying to nudge them. So it is a special list.

BIRKELAND: But the left hasn't abandoned face-to-face efforts altogether. Volunteers with the Pueblo Latino Democratic Forum register voters outside of a gas station in town.

TANEESHA VALDEZ: I've never voted my whole life.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Really?

VALDEZ: And I'm 37 years old. So yeah, my sister was like, please, Tee (ph). Please, this year, do it.

BIRKELAND: That's Taneesha Valdez. She pulled up to the convenience store with four children in the back seat of her car. She says she's never felt like she knows enough about the issues to vote, but this year her sister convinced her to do it anyway.

VALDEZ: Honestly, she wants Trump out. So she's like, please, come on.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Yeah.

VALDEZ: Get out here and vote and...

ERIC STEWART: My friend, he tried to get me last year to register to vote.

BIRKELAND: That's Eric Stewart. He says he's never voted and never will vote. He doesn't think it'll make a difference in his life.

STEWART: I don't know if it's going to benefit me. I don't even know if my vote even counts. I'm an ex-convict. You know how hard it is to find a job, to do anything? It's very difficult.

BIRKELAND: On the other side, Republicans are also trying to make personal appeals and see a real opportunity to build on their successes from 2016. The Trump campaign's victory bust recently stopped in Pueblo. Trump campaign senior adviser John Pence, who's the vice president's nephew, rallied the crowd.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOHN PENCE: We love our freedom.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Yes.

PENCE: And I think we can now remind the American people that the Republican way is the American way.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: Yes.

(APPLAUSE)

BIRKELAND: Sara Rosales attended the Trump get out the vote rally with her daughter and held up a Latinos for Trump sign. She says she's been talking to family members.

SARA ROSALES: I've been trying to work on those who are not registered to register. Those who are Democrat - I actually want them to open their eyes because Democrats are not the party they were. They're not. They're socialistic, liberal agenda.

BIRKELAND: She says she convinced her son and daughter-in-law to become Republicans. And especially during the pandemic, this kind of personal effort may be more effective than anything the political parties can do to turn out the vote. For NPR News, I'm Bente Birkeland in Pueblo, Colo.

(SOUNDBITE OF JELLIS AND SUBSETS' "KYOTO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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