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On the hunt for every last Hispanic vote that could give Clinton victory in Florida

The number of Hispanics voting early has increased in Florida, the most important swing state in the presidential election. Univision Noticias tagged along with an organization that reaches out to infrequent and first-time voters.
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7 Nov 2016 – 12:26 PM EST
Gloria Rosales (ileft) asks Kevin Correa if there is still time to vote by mail Crédito: Federica Narancio/Univision

Kevin Correa closed his fist to show a blister on one of his fingers. He got it knocking on 180 doors in one day to ask Florida voters to vote for Hillary Clinton. “I want to knock on 150 today,” said the 30-year-old, his t-shirt sweaty from a lot of walking.

Correa was hired a month ago by For our Future, an organization that backs Clinton, to contact registered Miami Democrats who don't vote regularly. His targets are mostly African Americans and Hispanics, who tend to back the Democratic candidate.

“Many people are not motivated, or think their vote is not important. I've also seen many voters who know it's important, but are misinformed,” Correa said as he walked briskly from door to door.

Just days before the elections, those voters can tip the balance in Clinton's favor in the country's biggest swing state. Without Florida, Republican candidate Donald Trump cannot win the 270 electoral votes needed to move into the White House. Clinton wants to shut that door.

But that's a big challenge. The average of polls in the RealClearPolitics Web page shows Clinton and Trump in a dead heat, with 48.2 percent favoring the Democrat and 47.2 percent backing the GOP candidate. That's why her supporters feel the urgency to hunt down every possible vote. After all, George W. Bush won the 2000 elections in Florida by a tad over 500 votes.

The good news for Clinton is that Hispanic voters in Florida appear to be heading to a record turnout in this election.

As of Friday, 200,000 more Hispanics had voted in person or by mail than in all the 2012 elections, according to Daniel Smith, a political science professor at the University of Florida.

“If Hillary wins Florida, it will be because of the increase in Hispanic participation, if this trend holds,” Smith told Univision Noticias.

Many Hispanics who already cast their ballots are only sporadic voters. Steve Schale, who directed President Barack Obama's Florida campaign in 2008, uses the term “low propensity voters” for those who only participated in one of the last three elections.

Schale said figures he reviews daily show that 53 percent of the Hispanic Democrats who already cast their ballots fit the “low propensity” category or are first-time voters. Among independent Hispanics, the percentage rises to 60 percent.

“This, my friends, is the definition of a surge,” he said.

Hispanics make up 16 percent of Florida's registered voters. Non-Hispanic whites account for 64.2 percent and African Americans for 13.4 percent.

"Did you vote already?”

Correa's work Thursday began in East Little Havana. He was joined by Daniela Martins Gutiérrez, Hispanic spokesperson for the Florida office of For Our Future, a “Super PAC” working in eight swing states this year. It uses donations from labor unions to support progressive candidates and causes, she said.

East Little Havana is a lower middle class neighborhood with many Cuban and Central American residents. Its tree-shaded streets are lined with modest two-story apartment buildings in pastel colors. Spanish is the predominant language, and the music from the ice cream truck that trolls its streets confirms it's a Latino neighborhood. The Lambada.

Ada Funes, a 54-year-old Honduran, was one of the first to answer their knock. “Did you vote already?” Correa asked. “Well, no,” Funes answered, adding that she does plan to vote.

Correa started to explain how to vote early, but before he finished Funes squinted and asked, “Do you come from Hillary or Donald Trump?” Correa said his organization supports the Democratic Party. Funes smiled. “OK, we're good. Because I don't map on his cell phone, Correa and Gutiérrez NOT MARTINS?? headed to another home. Their organization uses public data, such as party affiliation, voting history, gender and ethnicity to determine the registered Democrats least likely to vote. Their map shows several dots. That's where they were heading.

For Our Future plans to reach 2 million sporadic Hispanic voters in Florida. About 45 percent are African Americans, 31 percent are Hispanic, 22 percent are non-Hispanic whites and 2 percent are of Asian descent.

Common mistakes

Francisco Portillo is one of its typical targets. The 19-year-old, with a Nicaraguan mother and Salvadoran father, wanted to vote. But he was about to make a terrible mistake.

When Correa asked him if he had voted, Portillo said he was just about to put his ballot in the mail. But the deadline for voting with an absentee ballot had passed. His vote would not have counted.

“You should take your ballot to an early-voting place” in person, Correa told him. Portillo listened carefully at the door to his home, along with his girlfriend as two nieces played between their legs.

Although he was using a database focused on registered Democrats, Correa was sometimes directed to Trump supporters like Lázaro Quesada, 43, a Cuban who will be voting for the first time.

“I am very dissatisfied with the man who's president now. He hurt me a lot with the health insurance thing,” Quesada said. “I had a a very good insurance, and it turned into garbage with his Obamacare. This will be my punishment.”

Most of Correa's contacts that afternoon said they favored Clinton. But they had not yet voted and had questions about the process. A few did not want to talk. “I am eating. Another day. Yes, yes, I will vote. Thanks,” said one man who barely cracked open his door.

“During the course of this electoral campaign, five people will try to contact” the low-propensity voters, Gutiérrez said. Her advise to people tired of hearing knocks on their doors is simple.

“When someone tells you, 'Ah, your people already came,' I say, 'You know what? Vote and we won't bother you any more,” she said. “People laugh, but they vote.”

Univision Noticias will broadcast live coverage of the presidential elections Tuesday, Nov. 8, starting at 7 pm EST