Arizona has traditionally been a red state, but experts say it may be on its way to turning into a purple state as Latinos gain political clout and prove they are a force to be reckoned with.
“Soon, Arizona will become a state where a candidate cannot win without the Latino vote,” Joseph Garcia, director of the Morrison Institute Latino Public Policy Center, told VOXXI.
He said that’s because Latinos are projected to make up more than 50 percent of the state’s population by mid-century. Currently, Latinos constitute 30 percent of Arizona’s population and represent the state’s fastest growing ethnicity.
As they increase in numbers, more and more Latinos are registering to vote and are turning out to vote in elections. That’s in part because of the work Latino organizations are doing to register and encourage the Latino vote. It’s also due to Latinos’ disapproval of the state’s tough immigration laws.
It’s still not clear how many Latinos voted in Arizona during last week’s elections because the state hasn’t finished counting all the ballots. However, experts predict Latinos turned out to vote in record numbers. A report by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) projects Latino voter turnout in Arizona could reach 359,000, up from about 291,000 in 2008.
Furthermore, according to a report dubbed “Arizona’s Emerging Latino Vote,” the number of eligible Latino voters is projected to significantly increase by 2030. That’s due to the large number of younger Latinos who will eventually turn 18 years old and will be eligible to vote. Currently, 99 percent of Latino children ages four and under are U.S. citizens and will be of voting-age by 2030.
Garcia said these numbers show Arizona is positioning itself to experience “a huge political landscape change.” He said it is very likely that Latinos—who usually vote for Democratic and independent candidates—will change Arizona from being a red state to a purple state and perhaps even a blue state over the next few decades.
Arizona is turning into a purple state thanks to Latino vote
Some political pundits make the case that Arizona is well on its way to becoming a purple state where both Democratic and Republican candidates have high chances of winning elections.
Rodolfo Espino, an assistant professor of political science at Arizona State University, said the growing Latino population is fueling the shift.
“I think we are going to be talking about Arizona being a battleground state in eight years, possibly four,” Espino told VOXXI.
He said Latinos demonstrated their growing political clout in this year’s elections by coming out to vote in record numbers and helping Democratic candidates increase their chances of winning.
The Democratic candidates he pointed to are Paul Penzone, who ran to become Maricopa County’s new Sheriff, and Richard Carmona, who ran for a seat in the U.S. Senate.
Both candidates lost their races. However, Espino said the results of both races were much closer than they would have been without the support the Democratic candidates received from Latino voters.
“After these elections, politicians are going to start paying more attention to Latinos,” Espino told VOXXI.
GOP needs to become ‘a more inclusive party’ to attract Latinos
Garcia said the Republican Party needs to become “a more inclusive party” in order to attract and retain more Latino voters. He said the party can begin doing so by softening its tone on immigration and supporting an immigration reform.
In recent years, the GOP’s tough on immigration enforcement—led by Gov. Jan Brewer and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio—has turned away many Latino voters in Arizona. And though many Latinos believe in some of the same conservative values the Republican Party stands for, they have instead turned to the Democratic Party.
Some Arizona Republicans are taking notice of this. Among them are Sen. John McCain and Congressman Jeff Flake, who defeated Carmona last week and will now join McCain in representing Arizona in the U.S. Senate. Both of them led efforts to pass an immigration reform before shifting to a hard line stance on immigration.
McCain recently told The Arizona Republic that his party will have to “review the whole issue of the Hispanic voter and see what steps we need to take to regain that vote.”
“It’s very important because that demographic is growing here in Arizona and across the country,” McCain told The Arizona Republic. “In some of the states like Colorado and Nevada, especially those, and others the Hispanic vote was pivotal. We’ll have to review the issue of immigration reform.”
Brewer isn’t backing down from her tough stance on immigration
But while McCain and Flake are showing support for an immigration reform, Gov. Brewer said she opposes granting “amnesty” to undocumented immigrants and indicated she will not back down from her tough stance on immigration.
On Friday, Brewer released a statement saying that while Tuesday’s “disappointing” election results refocused attention on the issue of illegal immigration, “we must not rush head-long into a ‘solution’ that only makes things worse.”
“Right now, there are well-meaning people—including some in my own party—who are advocating a grand bargain in which the American people would be promised border security in exchange for the granting of amnesty to tens of millions of illegal aliens. We’ve been here before,” she stated.
Brewer said the 1986 immigration reform signed by President Ronald Reagan didn’t secure the border. She cautioned that a new immigration reform wouldn’t either.
“That’s why I have a simple request for the President and Congress: Secure our border first,” she said in her statement. “Demonstrate that you take seriously the safety concerns of Americans living in the border region. With that completed, we can pursue—together—ways to fix our Nation’s broader immigration system in a fashion that is effective, practical and humane.”