IN DEPTH: Turning pain into purpose’: why the Covid crisis is driving Arizonans to the polls

Ann, and Bill Whitmire at their home in Phoenix, Arizona on 13 October. They each fell ill and recovered from Covid-19 earlier this year in July and January. /Photograph: Caitlin O’Hara/The Guardian

As Election Day looms, a traumatized electorate is weighing the failures of Republican leaders to control the pandemic in Arizona, and across the U.S.

Maanvi Singh and Lauren Gambino in Phoenix | The Guardian

When Kristin Urquiza drafted an obituary for her father, Mark Urquiza, she didn’t imagine it would be all that controversial or notable.

“I was just being honest,” she said, when she wrote that her dad’s death from Covid-19 was “due to the carelessness of the politicians who continue to jeopardize the health of brown bodies through a clear lack of leadership, refusal to acknowledge the severity of this crisis, and inability and unwillingness to give clear and decisive direction on how to minimize risk”.

Her words – published by The Arizona Republic – were shared, retweeted, emailed and relayed across the country. Daughters, sons, parents, grandparents, friends mourning loved ones flooded her inbox.

Her father was a Trump supporter who had trusted the president, and believed it would be safe to go to a karaoke bar after Arizona’s stay-at-home order was lifted in May. Now, Urquiza has returned to Phoenix, the city where he lived and she grew up, to campaign for Trump’s opponent – and get out the vote. “I’ve been turning my pain into purpose,” she told the Guardian. “This is our chance to collectively come together and demand change.”

The coronavirus crisis, which has dominated the election cycle, looms especially large over Arizona. The virus has killed more than 227,000 people in the US, including nearly 6,000 Arizonans, and forced hundreds of thousands more to file for unemployment. It has taken a disproportionate toll on Latino, Black and Native American populations.

Maricopa county was especially hard hit, and remains the fifth worst affected in the US. With Election Day less than a week away, a traumatized electorate is weighing the failures of Republican leaders to control the pandemic in Arizona, and across the country.

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