In the 2016 election, the Arizona youth voter turnout (ages 18-29) was incredibly low, at just 33%. In 2020, this number grew to 51%. Although this increase was significant – Arizona had one of the largest increases out of all Western states – that number should have been much higher. Despite the importance of government policies to young Americans, 18-29 year-olds vote less than any other age group.
Before looking at solutions, we first need to see what difficulties voters face.
Why do eligible voters not vote?
One reason why young minority voters don’t turn out is because of a lack of minority representation in politics. Minority citizens may see politicians as less trustworthy and lacking a proper agenda to advocate for minorities. When there are supposedly no “good” options, people decide it’s better not to vote at all. Candidates can help convince young minority voters to turn out by taking the time to invest in policies and solutions for minority communities.
What rules and options should voters be aware of?
In Arizona, if you turn 18 in time for the next general election, you can register to vote. Registering to vote early can make the process easier and encourage more young people to vote since it removes the day-of registration hassle. When people do not register early, it creates long lines on election day; registering early reduces this delay.
Mail-in ballots are also a great option to make voting more accessible, which is why in 2020, “[r]oughly 80% of Arizona voters cast their ballots early by mail or by dropping them off in secure boxes” (Galvan).
Why is voter turnout especially important?
In general, a high voter turnout is important because it ensures that policies match citizens’ interests. Voters help decide how to solve challenging issues by choosing what ballot measures they want to pass, and which candidates to elect based on their platform. It is more representative of Arizona’s needs if every Arizonan is voting on these issues.
This is especially true for minorities, who have been historically disenfranchised from local and national politics. Unfortunately, in 2018, there were 227,000 eligible Black voters and only 11,350 people voted: a mere 5% of the total.
How accessible is AZ voting right now?
In Arizona, you no longer need an excuse to request a mail-in ballot. This makes voting more accessible for people who can’t skip work to wait in line to vote, need to take care of family, or have disabilities, as they no longer have to justify their mail-in ballot. There was a 63% increase in mail-in and early in-person ballots returned from 2016-2020.
What else can be done in the future for AZ voting to improve accessibility?
Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) is a new tool designed to make the voting process easier and more efficient. Twenty states and D.C. have approved AVR. Some states implement AVR through automatic registration after a DMV visit with later opt-out options, whereas others allow voters to opt-in and fill out the forms.
- AVR updates registrations with current information, and “[reduces] the use of costly provisional ballots, which are a fail-safe voting option when there is a discrepancy in a voter’s registration status” (Automatic Voter Registration- NCSL).
- Automatic Voter Registration has been successful in increasing voter registration rates throughout the country. “In Vermont, for example, registrations went up by 60 percent after it adopted AVR. In Georgia, they increased 94 percent” (Weiser).
Arizona hasn’t tried this yet, but it is a way to improve accessibility in the future and should be given serious consideration.
What is the problem with strict voter ID laws?
Currently, Arizona requires strict non-photo identification to vote.
The main issue with strict voter ID laws is that it negatively and disproportionately impacts minorities. UC Davis political science Professor Zoltan Hajnal writes that “Hispanics are affected the most: turnout is 7.1 percentage points lower in general elections and 5.3 points lower in primaries in strict ID states than it is in other states. Strict ID laws mean lower African American, Asian American, and multiracial Americans turnout as well.”
Eligible low-income voters often face challenges traveling to receive an acceptable ID. Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School explains that “unfortunately, these free IDs are not equally accessible to all voters” (Gaskins, Iyer).
Many states make it difficult to acquire a driver’s license as a form of ID.
Andrew Cohen, senior at the Marshall Project from The Atlantic explains that Texas has no driver’s license offices in almost a third of the state’s counties. Furthermore, it is difficult for people who work to obtain IDs because many driver’s license offices close by the end of their workday.
Arizona has been increasing its voter accessibility and can do even more to help voters by using new technology and decreasing strict voting laws. Hopefully, Arizona will continue on this path in the future.
Register to vote for the next election cycle AZ!
Ben & Jerry’s
AP News (Voting Rights)
Pew Research Center
Brennan Center Research Reports