On Aug. 26, the nine congressional districts of Arizona will hold their primary elections for their respective party candidates. Among these nine, there are three that could be described as “battlegrounds,” meaning hotly-contested elections that could sway either way. The 1st District covers nearly half of the state, stretching from Flagstaff to parts of Chandler. Located in the southernmost part of Arizona, the 2nd District contains most of Tucson, and about 100 miles northwest lies Tempe’s own 9th District, in the heart of the Valley.
It just so happens that each of these districts are also home to our three gigantic, state universities, brimming with members of the 18-to-24-year-old demographic. Our influence should not be underestimated in these political spheres. According to The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, in 2012, “Obama won the youth vote and lost the over-45 vote in several states, including Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. He won those states’ electoral votes, which demonstrates the importance of youth voters to the outcome.”
As students attending ASU, where the average full-time student is 21 years old, we must appreciate our considerable opportunity to shape the youth vote in the 9th Congressional District. According the the Cook Partisan Voting Index, which compares a district’s average party share to the national average party share over the last two elections, District 9 leans Republican by a single percentage point. Fairvote projects a Democrat share of 51% for the general election. A battleground indeed. According to a press release via LUNA+EISENLA media, “In the last midterm election, over 25,000 youth cast ballots. Young people make up almost a quarter of the resident population in the Arizona 9th district.” In these staistics, our influence is obvious.
District 9’s incumbent, Representative Kyrsten Sinema, is running unopposed in the Democratic primary election. While Sinema prepares in anticipation of her opponent, the Republican party eagerly awaits confirmation of its candidate. Andrew Walter, businessman and former ASU quarterback, will face Wendy Rogers, businesswoman and Air Force veteran, in the Republican primary. It is the hope of both to represent the Republican party as a candidate in the general election on Nov. 4. Incumbents are historically difficult to defeat, therefore, the Republican voters will need to be wise regarding for whom they vote.
The uncertainty of the 9th Congressional District adds a great deal of importance to your vote. Although there is always room for upsets and surprises, many districts’ representatives are decided before the general election. For example, Arizona’s District 4 has a CPVI of “R+20”, meaning over the past two elections, Republicans have had a party share 20 percentage points over the national average. With a CPVI of “D+16”, the Democrats have something of a stronghold on District 7. District 9, on the other hand, is as even as districts come. It’s so even, in fact, that the youth vote could be absolutely crucial.
We encourage all students to cast their vote for whomever they see fit, and break the current national trend of decline in youth voting. Arizona has semi-open primaries, meaning those who are unaffiliated can vote in either primary, but those who are affiliated to a party may only vote for their party. Unfortunately, the date to register for primary voting was in July, so some students will have to wait until the general election to cast a vote if they missed this date. The registration deadline for the general election is October 6, 2014, and a comprehensive walkthrough of how to register is available here.