Should Arizona move its statewide elected offices election to presidential years? Discuss

I have been posting about the Democratic midterm election drop-off problem all year. Political scientists have been studying this phenomenon for years, and no one has ever produced a hard and fast explanation for why this occurs.

The practical effect is that we have two separate and distinct electorates in this country, one that tends to vote Democratic in presidential years, and one that votes Republican in midterm years, as illustrated below. Note: Democrats did well only in the 2006 midterm election, the “six year itch” of the George W. Bush administration when Republican voter enthusiasm was nil.

usep_voter_turnout_2014_fx

So when do most states elect their governor and state legislatures? That’s right, in midterm election years, which gives Republicans a built in electoral advantage. Think Progress reports, Why Republicans Have A Built-In Advantage In Gubernatorial Races:

Of the 50 states, just nine states hold their gubernatorial elections during presidential (2012, 2008, etc.) years. On the other hand, 34 hold their elections only in midterm (2014, 2010, etc.) years. Five states vote in off-year (odd-numbered, e.g. 2011 or 2013) elections, and two other states, New Hampshire and Vermont, hold gubernatorial elections every two years rather than four.

As political observers will tell you, the makeup of the voting electorate in presidential years is quite different than during midterm elections. And that difference is what ultimately disadvantages many Democratic gubernatorial candidates.

According to the 2012 CNN exit poll to the 2014 CNN exit poll, here’s how the electorate changed this year:

GENDER:

  • 2012: Men made up 47 percent of the electorate.
  • 2014: Men made up 49 percent of the electorate.

AGE:

  • 2012: Voters aged 18-29 made up 19 percent of the electorate. Voters 65 and older were 16 percent.
  • 2014: Voters aged 18-29 made up 13 percent of the electorate. Voters 65 and older were 22 percent.

RACE:

  • 2012: Whites made up 72 percent of the electorate, while African Americans and Latinos combined made up 23 percent.
  • 2014: Whites made up 75 percent of the electorate, while African Americans and Latinos combined made up 20 percent.

INCOME:

  • 2012: Voters who made less than $50k per year comprised 41 percent of the electorate. Those making $100k or more were 28 percent.
  • 2014: Voters who made less than $50k per year comprised 36 percent of the electorate. Those making $100k or more were 30 percent.

The electorate this year was significantly whiter, older, richer, and more male than in 2012. In other words, the midterm electorate tends to have more Republican voters, while the presidential electorate tends to have more Democratic voters.

This means that, for Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls in Florida or Ohio or Wisconsin or elsewhere, every election is played on the opponents’ turf. The governor of these states, along with 36 others, is decided with a Republican-leaning midterm electorate.

Any athlete will tell you that playing on the road is always more difficult than playing at home. Republicans, playing at home this year, not only prevailed in many gubernatorial races, but in many they weren’t expected to win.

* * *

If more states held their gubernatorial elections in presidential years, or if more states gave their governors a 2- or 6-year terms, Democrats would get to play at home as well. As is, Republicans enjoyed a systemic bias this year that helped them prevail in many gubernatorial elections.

As of the time of this post, the Arizona Secretary of State says voter turnout in 2014 is 46.44 percent, an historically low voter turnout. But in presidential election years, Arizona has voted 25-30 percent higher than this:

2012: 74.36%
2008: 77.69%
2004: 77.10%
2000: 7.1.76%

Shouldn’t our statewide elected officials be elected by a majority of the electorate rather than a mere plurality?

Here is an idea, one that will have to be taken to the ballot by a citizens initiative because the Tea-Publican controlled Arizona legislature has no incentive to put this before the voters: move Arizona’s statewide elected offices election to presidential years.

If this was an initiative on the 2016 ballot, the way it would work is that the initiative would take effect in 2020 to allow for a one-time transitional phase. The current crop of Republicans just elected are free to run for reelection in 2018, with the clear understanding that if they are reelected they will be serving a two year second term and will be termed out of office in 2020. If they win reelection in 2018, they would be ineligible to run in 2020.

If a Democrat is elected in 2018, it is with the clear understanding that it is to a two year term, and if they are reelected in 2020, they would serve a four year second term, and will be termed out of office in 2024.  They would be ineligible to run in 2024.

You can be certain that there would be a titanic fight over this ballot measure. If you think this year was expensive, wait until you see the fight over this! But given this year’s historic low voter turnout, we should at least be discussing moving our elections.

9 responses to “Should Arizona move its statewide elected offices election to presidential years? Discuss

  1. All I want is more people voting, I’m not telling them how to vote. Seems to me that if GOP ideas are good ones they should be able to win support from more than just old white men.

    • They obviously did get votes from other than “old white men” or they wouldn’t have enjoyed the successes they did. They received votes from across the spectrum. That may hurt you to realize, but the GOP has a much greater appeal than you want to believe. Why they even elected women and minorities to office.

      Sorry to shatter your illusion, TS.

  2. And you all say the GOP will do ANYTHING to win. Have you looked in the mirror?

    • Your trolling is tiresome, and you have nothing of value to offer. I specifically said “Shouldn’t our statewide elected officials be elected by a majority of the electorate rather than a mere plurality?”

      In this election, more than 1.5 million Arizonans are not even registered to vote. And less than half of those who are registered to vote bothered to vote in this election. Most races were closely decided, so less than one-fifth of the eligible citizens of this state elected the winners. This is not representative democracy.

      I have consistently argued for expanding the electorate — all eligible citizens of voting age should be automatically registered to vote under a universal voter registration system — and I have consistently argued that everyone has an obligation to vote as a U.S. citizen. If you are opposed to democracy, you are the problem.

      • We agree that all eligible voters should be registered and everyone has an obligation to vote. The problem is making that happen.

  3. I’ve been thinking of this myself. The AZ R-led legislature made this argument itself a few years ago when they passed a law saying that all of Arizona’s city elections should be held on mid-term years to save money. It would save far more money to hold statewide office elections on Presidential years. They will however squeal like stuck pigs. But yes I think this should be tried.

    Personally I also favor the idea of penalizing people who don’t vote on their taxes. Studies looking into this have shown that when voters are encouraged to vote using a monetary penalty, such as loss of $30 to $50 of tax refund, they actually study the election and become educated about their choices before voting. Any that don’t do that will likely split their votes roughly evenly between candidates, by randomly assigning their votes, and therefore not favor any particular candidate. It would also throw a big monkeywrench into the negative campaign ads, which we know are really designed to discourage voting, obviously more often successfully than not.

  4. captain*arizona

    this would have to be done by ballot of voters so start gathering signatures.

  5. Here in Indiana, they elect some of the state wide offices (including the governor) during presidential election years and the rest during the mid-term years. For Arizona, I think it would be best to elect the state wide offices during the presidential election year. Maybe then the Democrats will have a real shot.

  6. Donna Gratehouse

    This oped in the New York Times from two Saturdays ago called for doing away with Congressional midterms. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/03/opinion/cancel-the-midterms.html

    I agree. If a large segment of the electorate is not participating in these important elections, for whatever reason, then the elections need to be moved to the time when they will.