A to Z

Arizona a key state in $32 million investment to turn out young voters

By: - October 15, 2021 1:21 pm
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Arizona voters make their way to a polling place to cast their ballot during the midterm elections on Nov. 6, 2018. Photo by Ralph Freso | Getty Images

Young voters in Arizona will be the target of a $32 million campaign seeking to mobilize those ages 18 to 35 in eight states ahead of the 2022 election cycle as part of a program funded by NextGen America, a left-leaning advocacy group founded by billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer. 

This week the group announced that it has a goal to register 25,000 new young voters in Arizona and connect with 750,000 through digital and in-person outreach for next year’s election cycle, said Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, president of NextGen America. 

“This state has changed rapidly, but it will require the power of young people continuing to turn out for us to actually win on the issues that matter,” Tzintzún Ramirez said. “For us it wasn’t about flipping the state from red to blue. Ultimately, it’s about making sure that we are able to tackle the climate crisis, income inequality, cancel student debt, and deliver on the issues that matter to young people.”

According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University, youth turnout was 51% in 2020 in Arizona, an increase of 18 percentage points when compared to the 33% of registered voters ages 18-29 who voted in 2016.

For the 2020 election cycle, NextGen America spent $4.6 million in Arizona and registered 10,553 young voters, said Kristi Johnston, spokeswoman for the organization. The group had 27 employees, eight programs on college and university campuses and a network of about 1,600 volunteers, she said.

The organization is focusing on Arizona and other states it described as part of the “largest voter-suppression states” in the nation. This legislative session, Arizona ranked first in a nationwide analysis of the number of proposed laws that would make it harder for people to vote. Many of those plans didn’t make it into law, but the Republican-led legislature did enact a purge of the state’s popular early voting system. 

To successfully turn out young voters in Arizona, groups have to understand the demographics of the state, where people of color make up 51% of the population under age 30. Specifically, young immigrants, Latinos, and children of immigrants have been instrumental in the state’s shifting political landscape, which has moved past its infamous anti-immigrant agenda.  The state has achieved key victories for Democratic candidates, and has succeeded in passing progressive measures like increasing the minimum wage, legalizing recreational marihuana and taxing wealthy state residents to fund education. 

“Arizona really is the model of how to turn out and invest in young Latinos, it’s a model for the rest of the country,” Tzintzún Ramirez said. “What young Latinos have achieved in this state, gives tremendous hope to the people in my home state of Texas.”

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Laura Gómez
Laura Gómez

Reporter Laura Gómez Rodriguez covers state politics and immigration for the Arizona Mirror. She was named Best Investigative Reporter by Phoenix Magazine in its 2018 newspaper category and has been honored by the Arizona Press Club for education, immigration, political, and public safety reporting and Spanish-language news and feature reporting. Laura worked for The Arizona Republic and La Voz Arizona for four years, covering city government, economic development, immigration, politics and trade. In 2017, Laura traveled the length of the U.S.-Mexico border for “The Wall,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning project produced by The Arizona Republic and USA Today Network. She is a native of Bogotá, Colombia and lived in Puerto Rico and Boston before moving to Phoenix in 2014. Catch her researching travel deals, feasting on mariscos or playing soccer.