REWATCH: News 6 hosts Real Talk town hall on the power of the minority vote

Event scheduled for 8 p.m. Oct. 21

ORLANDO, Fla. – The stakes are high this election season as voters prepare to cast their ballots in a particularly contentious political climate.

Both President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden are spending the final weeks before Election Day working hard to win over minority groups, knowing that Black, Hispanic and Latino voters can make a difference when it comes to the final tally.

To highlight how important those voices are now and in elections past, News 6 hosted the Real Talk: The Power of the Minority Vote town hall from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Oct. 21. We brought in a panel of experts who provided their experience and knowledge and answered viewer questions.

[Meet the panelists for the Real Talk: The Power of the Minority Vote town hall]

Because so many News 6 viewers are part of those significant populations, we also invited you to share your stories in the form of a 30-second video explaining why voting is so crucial. Anchor and Real Talk host Ginger Gadsden provided instructions on how you can get your voice heard here.

Vice President Mike Pence is expected to host a Latinos for Trump event in Orlando on Saturday at Central Christian University.

According to Pew Research Center, 32 million Latinos are projected to be eligible to vote, making them the largest racial or ethnic minority in a presidential election for the first time ever. That means about 13.3% of all eligible voters will be Latino.

Of course, as Pew points out, there are wide variances even within the same ethnic groups. In Florida, Cubans, who tend to vote Republican, had been the largest Hispanic group in the state but during the past decade Puerto Ricans, who lean left, have assumed that title.

Black voters are also expanding in Florida with research showing that there were 1,335,000 eligible black voters in 2000 compared to 2,215,000 in 2018. At the same time, the white share of the electorate in Florida has fallen by 13 percentage points since 2000.

Recent numbers from the Florida Division of Elections, calculated before the primary election, show that about 62% of registered Florida voters are white, 17% are Hispanic and 13% are Black.

While those numbers are no doubt notable, it’ll be up to candidates on both sides to make sure they’re appealing to those minority voters by addressing the issues that matter to them most. That’s even more important in battleground states like Florida, which has 29 electoral votes and the power to determine which candidate wins.

Vanessa Griddine-Jones, the executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, told CBS News that for Black voters, those issues are affordable housing, affordable and accessible health care, education, student loan debt, gun control and criminal justice reform.

Historically there have been obstacles such as poll taxes and literacy tests that have been put in place that have prevented minority voters from getting to the polls.

In a year marred by the coronavirus pandemic, the struggles have shifted but they’re far from gone.

Ex-felons in Florida are reacting to a federal appellate court ruling that requires all felons to pay all fines, restitution and legal fees before they can vote again.

Voting by mail can be difficult for those in communities with unreliable mail service or those who don’t have a permanent address, government offices closing for months to stop the spread of COVID-19 made it hard to obtain an ID required to vote and according to a recent study from the Brennan Center for Justice, voters of color tend to experience longer wait times while trying to vote, which could be made worse as polling places consolidate this election season.

In Georgia, one woman said she waited in line for nearly 10 hours to cast her ballot at an early voting site this month.

Let’s not forget, too, that even though Amendment 4 passed in Florida, giving felons the right to vote once again, only a fraction of those one million returning citizens will be able to cast their ballots until they pay off costly court fees and fines. A study cited by the Tampa Bay Times notes that based on a sample size of 375,000 returning Florida citizens, only about 18% had met those financial obligations.

Despite the hardships, many minority voters are more determined than ever to exercise their civic duty.