Why is the youth vote so important in Arizona?

Mef Ruff (left), Professor Marija Bekafigo (center), and Scott Noble (right)

Gen Z, Millennials, and Gen X now make up a majority of the voting eligible population, However, they are not just strong in number. They also have quite a few similar views about the role of government. They are typically more progressive than older generations in their political preferences, and unified on some key issues that even Republican leaners among them can get behind such as their desire to combat climate change. While this may be a nationwide trend, Arizona’s youngest voters have a unique opportunity to be a part of a historical election. It is no longer certain that the Republican nominee will win Arizona and thus young voters of all political persuasions should gear up to participate so their voice is heard in an increasingly competitive electoral state.

Given the enormous potential of these young voters to move politics, historically red states could be ripe for a political change. Arizona has traditionally been a red state, but that is changing with its demographics. An influx of younger, racially diverse, progressive voters had Trump and Clinton in a tight race for the state’s electoral votes in 2016. Democrats made sizable gains in the state’s legislature in 2018 and Arizona voters just elected our first Democratic Senator since 1988, Kyrsten Sinema, suggesting there is state-wide support for progressive policies. This is all a foreshadowing of the battle to win Arizona’s electoral votes in 2020 making it even more important to vote.

The best way to ensure the youth vote is heard is to register students to vote where they attend college, including those who are from out of state.

On the Democrats side, whoever is chosen must be able to face President Trump in a state that has supported the Republican presidential candidate since 1952 with one exception. Three of the Democratic candidates, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Joe Biden are in a veritable tie with the sitting president. On the other hand, while the Democrats are competing for their party’s nomination and possibly losing supporters in the divisive process, the Republican primary has been canceled in Arizona with Trump automatically receiving the state’s delegates at the national convention. While some see this as limiting the choice of the people, this tactic moves voters to rally behind one candidate from the very beginning and could have a positive effect on the outcome (Fouirnaies and Hall, 2020).

This is where college students come in. With three large four-year public universities that attract numerous students from California and other west coast states, student votes could be instrumental in turning the state blue or keeping it red. The best way to ensure the youth vote is heard is to register students to vote where they attend college, including those who are from out of state. Many college students do not take this step and remain registered in their home state in spite of residing in Arizona for most of the year. Many believe registering to vote in the state they attend school rather than in their home state will affect their ability to receive student loans. It will not. Students who want to vote in their home state should request an absentee ballot since they are unlikely to be back home on Election Day (Primary: March 17; General Election: November 3). Those who are long-time Arizona residents, too, may have to attend class on Election Day and be unable to make it back to their hometowns to vote. There is no harm in requesting an early/absentee ballot. You can still vote at the polls on Election Day, but registering to vote and requesting an absentee ballot early will assure your voice is heard.

Arizona is not locked down for any party or candidate. Gen Z, along with Millennials and Gen X, has strength in numbers and some unifying principles to make their mark in 2020 Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, large numbers of young voters showing up at the polls could create unprecedented change and cause politicians to listen.


Fouirnaies, A., & Hall, A. B. (2020). How Divisive Primaries Hurt Parties: Evidence from Near-Runoffs in US Legislatures. The Journal of Politics, 82(1), 000-000.

Scott Noble and Meg Ruff are guest contributors for the RAISE the Vote Campaign. The views expressed in the posts and articles featured in the RAISE the Vote campaign are those of the authors and contributors alone and do not represent the views of APSA.

Scott Noble is a junior political science major at Northern Arizona University. 

Meg Ruff is a junior at Northern Arizona University and is majoring in political science and minoring in Spanish and communication studies. She is passionate about discussing and debating international policies and is interested in attending graduate school after completing her bachelor’s degree. 

Authors are listed in alphabetical order and their contributions were equal. 

Join the Campaign

Bennett Grubbs

Political Science Today

Follow Us

Scroll to Top