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Arizona is undergoing a historic demographic shift, most of which can be attributed to the rapid population growth of the state’s Latino population, which doubled between 1990 and 2010 and is expected to double again in the next two decades.
This boom in the Latino population, combined with concerted and wide-ranging efforts to increase Latino voter registration and participation, have begun to shape the results the local, state and national elections.
“The State of Arizona’s Latino Voters: Election 2014” details and analyzes the major ongoing trends and developments involving the state’s expanding Latino electorate.
A Steadily and Increasingly Influential Voting Bloc
If there is one constant in the developments surrounding Latino voters in Arizona, it is the evidence year-after-year of steady increases in Latino voter registration and participation, and as a consequence, a growing impact on the results of Arizona elections.
State and county election data combined with U.S. Census figures consistently show that the role and influence of Arizona’s Latino voters is steadily growing and will continue to expand in 2014 and over the course of the next several elections. The reason Latino voter influence is growing is related to two major factors:
a) The population of Arizona Latinos is growing and will continue to grow rapidly. Since 1990, the state’s Latino population nearly tripled from 688,338 to 1.93 million, and it’s expected to double again in the next 20 years, according to U.S. Census figures. At the current population growth rate, Latinos are predicted be a majority of Arizona’s population by 2035. Most of that population growth is related to native births and not immigration. The number and proportion of voting age Latinos is also growing. According to Pew Hispanic Research, more than 65,000 Latinos in the United States turn 18 every month.
b) The number of registered Latino voters who have signed up for Arizona’s Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL) has more than tripled since 2010 from about 94,000 to more than 300,000 registered voters. Voters on the PEVL can cast their ballots early by mail or in person. According to election experts, people on the PEVL are more likely to vote than non-PEVL voters. While signing up to PEVL is a growing trend among all voters, Arizona’s Latino voters are signing up at a rate 30 percent faster than non-Latinos, thanks in large part to the efforts of One Arizona and its 12-member organizations, which have been instrumental in encouraging Latino voters statewide to register and sign up for the Permanent Early Voting List.
AZ Latinos: A Growing Share of All Votes Cast
As further evidence that Latino voting clout is steadily increasing, in the past two AZ gubernatorial/mid-term elections (as well as the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections), Latino voters have represented a growing percentage of all ballots cast, and that trend is expected to continue in 2014.
In the 2006 election, Latino voters accounted for 9 percent of all votes cast, according to county and state election records. In 2010, Latinos were 12 percent of all votes cast statewide. In 2014, One Arizona estimates Latinos will make up 14 percent or more of all votes cast.
Looking ahead to 2016, One Arizona estimates Latinos could represent 20 percent of all votes cast statewide in Arizona, though it is important to note that comparatively substantial increase is tied to the traditionally higher voter turnout among all voters in a presidential election year. For instance, Latino voters represented 18 percent of all the ballots cast in the 2012 presidential election year.
On the local election front, Latino voters have played a bigger role as well. In the election of Mayor Greg Stanton in Phoenix in 2012 Latino voter turnout increased three-fold over the previous mayoral election. In that same year, Daniel Valenzuela was elected to the Phoenix City Council by quintupling Latino voter turnout in his district. In addition, Latino voters are credited with helping to recall of Senator Russell Pearce and then defeat him in his bid for reelection to the State Senate. Much of the opposition to Pearce’s election is rooted in the passage of Senate Bill 1070 and related immigration legislation.
Latino Voter Impact and Arizona’s Competitive Statewide Races
The role and influence of Latino voters this year could prove decisive in the highly competitive races for all four of Arizona’s major elected offices: governor, attorney general, superintendent of public instruction and secretary of state. Recent and consistent polling has found that all of the races for the four statewide offices listed above are too close to call, an unusual state of affairs given the dominance by Republican candidates in recent years. (Currently, none of the offices listed above are held by Democrats.) If Democratic candidates do make gains in Arizona, the state would buck the consensus view by political analysts who predict that Republicans will dominate the mid-term elections nationwide by possibly gaining control of the U.S. Senate and adding to its numbers in the U.S. House.
A One Arizona analysis of early voting ballot returns to date (October 30, 2014) estimates that Latino voters will account for 14 percent, or approximately 240,000, of the estimated 1.7 million votes to be cast statewide in this year’s election. In an election in which the margin of victory could be as little as 25,000 to 40,000 votes, Latino voter turnout could prove a decisive factor. Note: Higher voter turnout among Latinos has traditionally favored Democratic candidates. Traditionally, statewide Democratic candidates in Arizona have received between 60 and 65 percent of Latino votes. However, in the 2012 presidential election, largely as a result of Republican policies and proposals regarding immigration, including the passage of Arizona Senate Bill 1070, Latino support for Democrats increased. In 2012, for instance, President Obama and U.S. Senate candidate Richard Carmona received nearly 80 percent of the Latino vote in Arizona, though Republican candidates carried the state in both races.
Latino Voter Impact on Arizona’s Competitive Congressional Races
The impact of Latino voters could play an important role in the race for three U.S. Congressional seats in Arizona—Districts 1, 2 and 9, currently held by Democratic incumbents Anne Kirkpatrick, Ron Barber and Kyrsten Sinema, respectively.
In the 2012 election, the number of Latino registered voters far exceeded the margins of victory in all three of the House seats listed below:
a) In District 1, Anne Kirkpatrick defeated her Republican opponent by 4 percent or 9,100 of the total votes cast. That year, Latino voters made up 11 percent, or 23,900, of the total votes cast in District 1.
b) In District 2, Ron Barber defeated his Republican opponent by 1 percent, or 2,000, of the total votes. That year, Latino voters accounted for 13 percent, or 39,000, of the total votes cast in District 2.
c) In District 9, Kyrsten Sinema defeated her opponent by 4 percent of the vote, or 10,200, of the total votes cast. That year, Latino voters accounted for 11 percent, or 29,000, of the total votes cast in District 9.
Note: The addition of the 9th Congressional District in Arizona in the 2012 election is largely credited to the doubling of the Latino population in Arizona between 1990 and 2010. (The number of congressional districts in each state is apportioned based on the distribution of the total U.S. population.) Furthermore, in a state where Republicans have dominated all statewide offices, Democrats currently hold a majority of the Congressional House seats.
The influence of Arizona’s Latino voters will continue to increase as voters in this community become an ever larger percentage of the state’s total population (50 percent by 2035) and a larger percentage of Arizona’s registered voters and overall voter turnout. In the long run, factors such as the community’s growing middle class and upward economic mobility, increased higher education attainment, and rapid growth in Latino small business ownership are all expected to increase Latino voter participation in local, state and national elections.
In addition, as Arizona Latinos age as a population, more of those voters will join the ranks of higher propensity voters. Older voters are more likely to vote in elections. Currently, the median age of Arizona Latinos is 25, while the median age for non-Latinos is 41. The effect of this age disparity among Arizona voters is reflected in the ranks of Arizona’s current registered voters. In 2014, 55 percent of non-Latino registered voters are over 50, as compared to 36 percent of Latino registered voters. At the same time, 36 percent of Latino registered voters are under 35 as compared to 22 percent of non-Latino voters.
Among the factors accounting for the current, overall voter turnout gap between Latinos and non-Latino voters: comparatively lower income levels, comparatively lower education levels, potential language barriers, and the Latino population includes a comparatively high immigrant population. About 35 percent of Arizona Latinos are foreign-born, a population that includes naturalized citizens who are eligible to vote, but also immigrants living the United States on temporary or permanent visas and others who are undocumented. Recent federal estimates put the total number of undocumented immigrants in Arizona at about 300,000, or 15 percent of the state’s Latino population. The foreign-born population in the United States accounts for 11 to 13 percent of the total population.
In closing, the upcoming election cycles, ongoing efforts to register the estimated 300,000 Latinos who are currently eligible to vote, but not yet registered, will remain a focus of One Arizona and its 12 member organizations, along with other unaffiliated Latino voter registration groups statewide. Additionally, One Arizona is focused on registering young voters, woman voters and low income voters and encouraging all of these voters to join the Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL).