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Arizona voter registration leaps by 47,000

Voter Registration Politics
Tempe Undergraduate Student Government hosts a voter-registration drive on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015, outside the Memorial Union on the Tempe campus.

Just in time for election season, voter registration in Arizona is on the rise, according to a report released by the Arizona Secretary of State's office. 

The number of registered voters has climbed by 47,000 since last July, the most recent time the metric was taken. This brings the total in Arizona to almost 3.3 million voters.

Increased population and a new wave of young people turning 18 are partially responsible for this increase, but there are other contributing factors, Matt Roberts, the director of communications at the Arizona Secretary of State’s office, said.

“It could be that 2016 is starting to get into people’s minds, and that there is a presidential election and primary, as well as three other statewide elections where voters will be casting important ballots,” he said. “It’ll be a busy election year and there’s a lot of awareness related to the presidential election cycle.”

He also pointed out that, since she entered office in January, Arizona Secretary of State Michelle Reagan "has prioritized voter outreach to 18-year-olds and younger and kept everything ... about the same as previous administrations for that 18- to 24-year-old group.”

He said historically, younger people do not participate politically as much as older people, but that there will be a registration increase across the board with the presidential election cycle.

He also said he hopes that registration will stay on the rise, identifying new technologies and social media outreach as valuable tools in the Secretary’s arsenal to boost registration.

The increase in registration comprised an increase of about 9,000 voters in the Republican party and about 10,000 voters in the Democratic party, but the biggest leap came from Independents, who made up most of the rest of the increase.

In the eyes of ASU political science professor David Wells, these numbers are fairly typical.

He reaffirmed that the biggest driving factor behind the jump in registered voters comes from increased involvement surrounding the upcoming presidential election.

"(Independents) are the kind of voters who really only become engaged every four years, and are more likely to register as a consequence of the election,” he said. “So many people are turned off by politics, so even if someone favors one party or another, they may not register with that party.”

Young people also only vote with presidential elections, another potential driving force behind the increase, Wells said.

Wells provided a mathematical model to help explain the phenomenon of cyclical registration. In a group of four registered voters, typically one out of four will vote in the primaries, two out of four will vote in the primaries and midterm elections, three out of four will vote in the presidential election, and the remaining fourth registered voter will not, in fact, vote at all.

Some have made efforts to get young people to buck the trend of low civic engagement. Matthew Ruland, a finance undergraduate and one of the founders of the Sparking Civics club at ASU, is one such person.

He said he worked closely with the Undergraduate Student Government at the Tempe campus to motivate college students to vote during National Voter Registration days, which he said were quite successful.

However, his identification of some of the main forces behind the increased registration hints at some of the problematic cyclical trends for youth voters.

“I think candidates like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, who are both really getting a lot of attention for being sort of new and dynamic (are motivating the increase),” he said.

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