election 2022 arizona senate Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., along with his wife former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, right, takes photos with supporters at the Barrio Cafe in Phoenix, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022.
(AP Photo/Alberto Mariani)

There’s a lot of speculation about why the so-called “red wave” didn’t come to fruition in the 2022 midterm elections. But, with Arizonans reelecting Mark Kelly and keeping the US Senate under Democratic control, flipping three governor’s seats from Republican to Democrat, and MAGA candidates losing their elections en masse, the consensus was clear: voters do not want Trump-endorsed election deniers to dictate their lives. 

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So, who were these voters that came through for democracy? In Arizona and across the country, it was young voters, ages 18-29, and Latino voters. 

Breaking Blue

In the Arizona Senate race, where Kelly won by a slim margin, youth ages 18-29 preferred Kelly by 76%, according to early estimates from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University. For the Governor’s race, young voters preferred Democrat Katie Hobbs by 71%.

According to early estimates, about 27% of eligible Americans between 18-29 cast a ballot this year. In Arizona, almost 67,000 young people voted early. Interestingly, voter turnout wasn’t the same nationwide — but it was significantly larger in swing states. According to NPR, research shows voter turnout was even higher, at about 31% – the same youth turnout rate in the 2018 election.

According to a Latino Victory exit poll, 63% of Arizona Latinos voted Democrat. Similarly, CIRCLE shows that 67% of Latino youth voted for a Democratic US House candidate. In comparison, among white youth, the vote was 58% for Democrats and 40% for Republicans. Moreso, 79% of young Latinas voted for a Democratic House candidate. 

Voters wait in line outside a polling station, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Furthermore, the 2022 Midterm Voter Election Poll shows that Latino voters remained solidly Democratic in their voting preferences in 2022, with 64% of Latinos reporting that they voted for a Democratic House candidate, compared to 33% who said they voted for Republican candidates. 

The Appeal of Inclusivity

Several factors went into large voter turnout in favor of Arizona’s Democratic candidates. Whether it was anti-abortion legislation, anti-immigrant agendas, or anti-LGTBQ, voters didn’t want a candidate that would contribute to an already toxic environment. 

“Young people are voting for a vision of our country that is more fair, more just, and more inclusive, with a government that will represent all of us,” Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, president of the nonprofit advocacy group, NextGen America, said on MSNBC.

Reyna Montoya, the CEO and founder of Aliento AZ, expressed similar views about Arizona’s youth and Latino voter turnout. Montoya and her organization, a nonprofit aiming to empower undocumented youth, spearheaded efforts to educate voters about Prop 308

“[Young voters] really care about issues, and that’s why they came out to vote. Some of them were really scared about the attacks on our trans youth and our LGBTQ youth and the attacks around abortion rights,” Montoya said. “So I know that our young people really understand now that elections have consequences and we’re seeing them really being engaged and wanting to do something about it. So we don’t have elected officials that are going to take away their rights.”

Rallying Around Reproductive Rights

Abortion was a key reason why young people and Latinos—and particularly Latinas—turned out in the midterms. Unidos US conducted an extensive survey before the elections, which showed that Latinos supported universal reproductive rights, even if they had personal misgivings about abortion. 

“I think Latinos have affirmed their critical role in shaping the country’s political landscape, both as voters and as candidates on both sides of the aisle,” Clarissa Martinez De Castro of Unidos US said. “As voters, Latinos generally reject extremes in taking away rights from people, as illustrated by these voters’ views on abortion.” 

Youth and Latinos Among Fastest-Growing Voter Blocs

Nationwide, an estimated 34.5 million Latinos were eligible to vote in the midterms, making Latinos the fastest-growing racial and ethnic group in the US electorate since the last midterm elections. In addition, the number of eligible Latino voters has increased by 4.7 million since 2018, representing 62% of the total growth in US-eligible voters during this time.

Of that 34.5 million, 1.3 million Latino eligible voters reside in Arizona, and according to Pew Research, the median age of Latino eligible voters is 39. 

“Latino voters reemphasized their power, not just in a handful of states, but nationwide. In races across the country, Latino voters turned out at or above levels of what we saw in 2018,” Kenneth Sandoval of Voto Latino said. “Their support for Democrats in key states kept pace with or exceeded 2020 levels. So just a few examples, in states like Arizona and Nevada, Latino voters cast ballots that are proving critical in creating a Democratic path to victory for those critical Senate races.”

Enough to Change the Tide

On Nov. 14, the Governor’s race was called for Democrat Katie Hobbs by just under 20,000 votes. Young people in Arizona favored Hobbs by a 20-point margin, yielding over 60,000 votes for Hobbs, over three times the winning margin of victory, according to CIRCLE. Youth also played a factor in Democrat Mark Kelly’s victory over Republican Blake Masters in the US Senate race.

RELATED: With the Passage of Prop 308, Arizonans Show Real Support for Dreamers

Montoya said that Hobbs and Kelly may not have been ideal candidates for young voters. However, voters would have never opted for Republican candidates that intended to do more harm. 

“I don’t think that they were super excited, let’s say, with some of the candidates like Katie Hobbs or even Mark Kelly in some instances, at least with the population that we worked with,” Montoya said. “But what we started to see is that there was a real worry about the alternative and having to really understand beyond elections.” 

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