Youth Vote Has Huge Role in Kyrsten Sinema's and Ann Kirkpatrick's Congressional Districts

This Election Day, young voters may have the most impact in two of Arizona's congressional districts.

The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), a think tank that studies youth voting habits, believe the districts currently occupied by Democratic Congresswomen Kyrsten Sinema (CD-9) and Ann Kirkpatrick (CD-1) are two of the four districts in the entire country where youth voting turnout should be watched most closely.

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Young people between the ages of 18 and 29 are notorious for having lower voting turnout than older age groups, but there are a few factors that set up youth voters to play a more pivotal role in these two congressional districts in Arizona.

In Kirkpatrick's district -- where she'll face either Republican Gary Kiehne, Adam Kwasman, or Andy Tobin -- the race is expected to be very close. In the last two races, the margin of victory was less than the total number of young voters who cast a ballot.

In Sinema's district -- where Republicans Andrew Walter and Wendy Rogers are her potential challengers -- more than 25,000 young people voted in 2012, and Sinema won by about 10,000 votes. Young people make up a large share of that district, about 25 percent, and the existence of several college campuses in the district creates the potential for more young voters.

Peter Levine, the director of CIRCLE, tells New Times candidates of both parties in these races could benefit from targeting the youth vote..

"There is still a conventional wisdom among hard-nosed political consultants that says don't bother with the youth." he says. "Statistically, that's a mistake."

The other two districts CIRCLE says to watch for the youth vote are New York's 23rd Congressional District, and Iowa's Third Congressional District.

During the last midterm election, in 2010, youth voters in Arizona accounted for just 9 percent of the vote share, according to research from CIRCLE. Just two years later, during the presidential election, young voters represented 26 percent of the vote in the state.

CIRCLE has also done research into why young people don't vote. When they surveyed those who didn't register, about 45 percent said they weren't interested -- which is similar reasoning given by older people who weren't registered to vote.

They've also tried to find out why registered voters didn't vote in the last midterm election, and half of young people said they were either too busy or not interested, while only about 31 percent of people over 30 gave those answers:

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley