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Julian Castro On The Fight Against Disinformation In Latino Communities

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

And now we'll turn to Julian Castro. He's the former mayor of San Antonio and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development during the Obama administration. He's now an adviser to Voto Latino, a political advocacy organization for Latinos. And he's founded his own political action committee. It's called People First Future. Welcome to the program.

JULIAN CASTRO: Great to be with you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I want to start by getting your reaction to our last guest. Ashley Bryant says Hispanic voters are the subject of a disinformation campaign. Are you worried about that?

CASTRO: I absolutely am. I mean, you see it on Facebook. You see it on Twitter or other platforms all the - YouTube. You see it on a number of platforms. It does seem like some of these efforts are specifically targeted at the Latino community. So yeah, I am, especially after what happened in 2016. And being so close to the election with voting happening right now, I do think that, in general, people are a little bit more aware of it now. I notice, compared to four years ago, less people sharing these memes, less of these, you know, sort of - hey, what's this? - within my family and friends network. So I think people are a little bit more sophisticated about it this time because of the experience of four years ago, but I still notice this information being shared. It still seems like it has tremendous potential to mislead folks.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, let's talk about the vote. Pew Research puts the number of Latinos eligible to vote this year at 32 million. That's a greater number than eligible Black voters for the first time. But for a quarter of a century, the number of eligible Latino voters who didn't vote has exceeded the number of Latino voters in total. So why is that? Why do Latinos not vote in the numbers that they should?

CASTRO: I think there have been a number of reasons for that. This year, what we're seeing so far is encouraging. We're seeing record turnout here in Texas in a number of the big counties that have huge Latino populations. I know in other states they're seeing the same. I'm actually in Arizona right now, and the numbers here in early voting are encouraging, as well. I think, generally, both political parties over the years did not do as much as they could to reach out to Latinos in a full court press. There were efforts that happened four months, six months - you know, even eight months before an election but less work to press and press and register and then turn out. I think that's changed a lot.

You know, Voto Latino has done a great job of registering voters. Texas - I think over 200,000 of them. There are a number of other groups that are working in Texas, in Florida, in Arizona, in other states that have heavy Latino populations, including growing Latino populations in places like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania that people don't think of. But, you know, over the years, we've had a Latino community start to emerge there. So I feel good about it. I think what we're going to see in 2020 is a significant jump over 2016. In 2016, Latino turnout had fallen from 48.5% in 2012 to 47% in 2016. It wouldn't surprise me if we go back up towards 50%.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, let's talk about your home state of Texas. The RealClearPolitics polling average for Texas puts the president up more than four points. Does that really read as winnable to you?

CASTRO: Well, I mean, if we put that in perspective, though - right? - four years ago, Donald Trump won the state of Texas by nine points. And probably the last 10 or 12 polls that I've seen have had them within the margin of error - there was one yesterday, for instance, that had Biden up 49-48. So it absolutely seems winnable. Many of these polls are within the margin of error. If you look at what's happened in Harris County, the largest county - that is overwhelmingly Democratic now - they shattered their record for the first five days of early voting. Each of those days they had over 100,000 people vote in-person early. Just to give you a sense, you know, on the first day, they nearly doubled from about 67,000 on day one in 2016 to 128,000 on day one in 2020.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But...

CASTRO: So, yeah, I think there's reason to be encouraged. But no question, you know, it's going to be a competitive state.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And just briefly, in the few seconds we have left, you have criticized the Democrats for not doing enough for Latinos. Has the Biden and Harris campaign been doing what they should be doing?

CASTRO: Yeah, I think they are. They have tremendous outreach in my home state of Texas, in Florida with its 29 electoral votes and a huge Latino population. Here in Arizona - and I've seen that on the ground firsthand. So I think, you know, the campaign, the DNC and nonprofit organizations that are doing voter registration - there's a lot happening in 2020 because people understand the stakes in this election.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Julian Castro. Thank you very much.

CASTRO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.