What to expect in upcoming general elections - AZEdNews
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What to expect in upcoming general elections

Arizonans Vote And Drop Off Their Early Ballots For Primary Elections At The Voting Center At Suprise City Hall On August 2, 2022. Photo By Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

With just two months before midterm elections, find out what could happen, listen to candidate debates, learn what primary results indicate and see what’s being done about the aggregate expenditure limit.

What to expect in upcoming general elections Paul-Bentz1
Paul Bentz with HighGroundPublic Affairs Consultants

“When the president is not at the top of the ticket, the big reminder is (voter) turnout will be down,” said Paul Bentz, senior vice president of research and strategy at HighGround Public Affairs Consultants during a presentation to Arizona Association of School Business Officials on Sept. 7.

In 2020, with the presidential election at the top of the ballot, Arizona had the “second highest voter turnout in state history – 79.9%” Bentz said.

This year, with the election for governor at the top of the ballot, “what we will see is turnout in this (general) election will be somewhere between 60% and 65%,” Bentz said.

“That means 700,000 fewer voters will vote this November than voted two years ago. It’s simply the way this works,” Bentz said.

General Elections information

General Elections will be held Nov. 8, 2022, in Arizona with polls opening at 6 a.m. and closing at 7 p.m.

The deadline to register to vote in general elections is Oct. 11, and early voting starts on Oct. 12.

You can register to vote at the Arizona Department of Transportation’s Arizona Voter Registration – ServiceArizona – ADOT & MVD Services portal.

Also, You can check your voter registration status at the Arizona Secretary of State’s Voter Registration Search (arizona.vote)

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Arizona 2022 General Elections timeline infographic by Lisa Irish/ AZEdNews

Where to view candidate debates

If you’re curious about the candidates’ stances on issues, watch candidate debates on the Citizens Clean Elections Commission YouTube channel. Statewide candidate debates will also be broadcast on Arizona Horizon at AZ PBS

On the Citizens Clean Elections Commission Candidate Debates website, you can submit a debate question for the candidates, find out when upcoming debates will be held, as well as find links to video of past debates.  

For example, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction candidates Kathy Hoffman and Tom Horne discussed issues Wednesday night in a candidate debate you can watch below that was on Arizona Horizon broadcast by AZ PBS and was sponsored by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission.

Arizona Horizon election debates 2022: Superintendent of Public Instruction

Several candidates responded to five of 10 questions on public education policies that most closely match their priorities during a 2022 Gubernatorial Candidate Forum on May 27, moderated by Arizona Business and Education Coalition President and CEO Dick Foreman. AZEdNews sent requests to respond to the same questions to Katie Hobbs and Kari Lake, Hobbs did while Lake did not, and Hobbs’ responses were included in an AZEdNews story on the forum. 

Hobbs declined to debate Lake in a traditional format, but both candidates for governor addressed issues last week with moderator Danny Seiden, CEO of Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, from the same stage, but at separate times in the FOX 10 News Phoenix video below.

FOX 10 News Phoenix Video: Katie Hobbs, Kari Lake field questions at Arizona gubernatorial candidate forum

What primary turnout indicates

Voter turnout in the 2022 primary elections was 35.1%, down slightly from 36.3% in 2020, but “the most voters ever in state history voted in this primary election – 1.459 billion voters,” Bentz said.

There was a slight decline in Democratic turnout in the primary this year at 40.8% – with “30,000 fewer Democrats than we anticipated” voting in the primary elections” – and a slight increase in Republican turnout at 56.9%, Bentz said.

Of the Independent or unaffiliated voters who voted in the 2022 primary elections, “about 50% of independents chose a Republican ballot about 40% chose Democratic and about 10% chose an unaffiliated or municipal ballot,” Bentz said. “There was more enthusiasm and in those competitive Republican races there is no doubt. But we did see that there was a slight depression in Democratic turnout.” “Now, that being said, we have seen a lot of issues change in the last two months, particularly in the social issue realm, and I do think we’ll end up with an uptick in Democratic enthusiasm,” Bentz said.

Independent voters’ key role

Independent or unaffiliated voters “are increasingly deciding elections,” said Thom Reilly, professor in the Arizona State University School of Public Affairs, during an interview with Ted Simons, host of Arizona Horizon on Sept. 13, 2022.

“If you look here in Arizona, they’re now a third of the population. In Maricopa County, now they’re the largest group of voters,” Reilly said. “How they vote, who they vote for and do they continue voting and supporting one party over time is critical information.”

Arizona Horizon video: The Impact of Independent Voters Sept. 13, 2022

Independent voters are “Americans who are making a statement of non-compliance with the two parties and with the current political culture,” said Jacqueline Salit, president of Independent Voting, a national strategy, communications, and organizing center that works to connect independent voters across the U.S., during the Arizona Horizon interview.

Reilly and Salit co-direct Arizona State University’s Center for an Independent and Sustainable Democracy, and are co-authors of a new book “The Independent Voter.”

“Generally speaking, Independents don’t like partisanship. They feel the parties are more interested in preserving their own political power than in representing the constituents they’re supposed to represent and they want things to change,” Salit said.

“Right now, some of the polling shows over 50% of millennials are nonaffiliated,” Reilly said. “Nationally, we’re seeing anywhere between 40 to 50% according to Gallup have identified.”

“Here in Arizona, the latest statistics are that 41% of Latinos identify as Independents. In the African American community, among younger people, among Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, the numbers are really going up, up, up,” Salit said.

What’s ahead in General Elections

Midterm elections like those this year traditionally benefit Republicans, and Republicans have an estimated 8-point advantage over Democrats going into the 2022 General Elections right now, Bentz said.

In addition, early voting and Election Day voting behavior has shifted, Bentz said.

In the past, early ballots returns “generally started much older and much more conservative. They were much more Republican leaning, and then they trended younger and more progressive going into Election Day,” Bentz said.

In 2020, Democratic voters returned ballots “at a much higher clip early on,” and “Republicans started to catch up near the end,” Bentz said.

“On Election Day voting, we actually saw the behavior shift. That’s why the gap narrowed for Biden from about 170,000 to less than 10,000 over the election, because that’s where the participation shifted,” Bentz said. “We’re seeing that again this time.”

Also, the first batch of General Elections results released on the Arizona Secretary of State’s and County Recorders’ websites at a about 8 p.m. on Nov. 8, will be the early ballots sent in and tabulated before Election Day, Bentz said.

“The next drop will be all the ballots that were voted in polling places. Those will come in sparingly. They don’t come in all at once, but they come in as the polling places report,” Bentz said.

“The final thing we’ll get then is those late earlies, the people that walk their ballot into a polling place and drop it off,” Bentz said. “They have to open those up, they have to verify those, and they have to ensure that person didn’t vote some other way. That takes a little bit of time. We will have probably at least 300,000 or so ballots that meet that criteria.”

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Arizonans vote and drop off their early ballots for primary elections at the voting center at Suprise City Hall on August 2, 2022. Photo by Lisa Irish/ AZEdNews

Women and Independent voters are trending more Democratic at the top of the ticket but “they will be much more up for grabs in some of these down ballot races as they pick and choose,” Bentz said.

“Independent and unaffiliated voters do not believe there was significant fraud that impacted the outcome of the (2020) election. They don’t tend to believe that the Legislature should have the power to overturn our election results and they do not support banning early voting,” Bentz said. “Those three issues are front and center when we look at the Secretary of State’s race, which is about running our elections.”

“When we look at Secretary of State’s race, when we look at Attorney General’s race and some of these, these are toss-ups right now. Everything is within the margin of error, and this is going to come down to turnout,” Bentz said.

In the Superintendent of Public Instruction election, “a majority of voters do not believe critical race theory is being taught in our classrooms, do not believe that our children are being indoctrinated, so there are some pretty stark differences here,” Bentz said. “This will come down to who shows up in the general election to bear that one out a little bit.”

Bentz said he anticipates Senate Republicans may have between 15 and 18 likely seats and Democrats between 12 and 15 likely seats. In the House, Republicans may have between 31 to 36 likely seats and Democrats have between 24 to 29 likely seats.

“A long list of what we would consider education friendly or more centrist Republicans were basically wiped out of the Legislature,” Bentz said. “Several Democrats considered more centrist were beaten by more progressive leaning Democrats as well.”

“What this will likely mean is that we are going to see an increased amount of division in our Legislative body which will create challenges on education issues like the aggregate expenditure limit,” Bentz said.

Lifting the aggregate expenditure limit

The aggregate expenditure limit is going to play a significant role in Superintendent of Public Instruction election and in some of the Legislative elections,” Bentz said.

The aggregate expenditure limit is a spending cap enacted by Arizona voters in 1980 that limits the amount that all public K-12 school districts can spend in a school year. It prevents public school districts from spending money appropriated to them by the Arizona Legislature. The aggregate expenditure limit changes each year based on the previous year’s school enrollment and inflation, charter schools aren’t included since they weren’t around in 1980, and most school funds count towards the limit with the exceptions of federal COVID relief funding (ESSER), other federal grants, and budget overrides, among other funds.  

Last year, the Arizona Legislature approved a bill to raise the aggregate expenditure limit on Feb. 21, 2022, preventing public district schools from needing to cut 16%, or nearly $1.2 billion, from their budgets as required by the state Constitution. Money that they were already allocated in the last legislative session. The delay in Legislators passing the bill before the March 1 deadline led many school leaders to let the public and Legislators know that those cuts could lead to staff and teacher layoffs, school closing months early and more cost effective or canceled graduation ceremonies.

In July, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman urged Governor Doug Ducey and Legislative leaders to suspend the aggregate expenditure limit for this year and “refer a permanent repeal to the aggregate expenditure limit to the 2024 ballot for voters to have the final say.”

“If the limit remains in place without action, we estimate that cuts to school district budgets for this year could exceed $2,000 per pupil,” said Dr. Chuck Essigs, director of governmental relations for Arizona Association of School Business Officials.

On Sept. 6, 191 school superintendents statewide sent letters to Gov. Ducey and House and Senate members on Sept. 6 requesting that the Arizona Legislature hold a special session before general elections to lift the aggregate expenditure limit so schools do not have to cut nearly $1.3 billion in funding Arizona Legislators already appropriated to them for this school year, Arizona Daily Star reports.

“Understanding what our Legislative makeup is going to be next year is going to be critically important for an issue like the aggregate expenditure limit, because there is a significant amount of turnover that’s happened in our Legislature both on the Republican side as well as on the Democratic side, and we are going to see a significant decline in institutional knowledge when it comes to the aggregate expenditure limit,” Bentz said.

Discussion about how the aggregate expenditure limit will impact schools “needs to become a much more public issue on a much quicker basis, because that March 1 deadline is going to come quickly,” Bentz said on Sept. 7.

Today, House Democratic Legislators called for a special session to fix the aggregate expenditure limit.

School board, bond, override & ballot initiatives

Elections for school governing board members and school district bond, override and questions tend to be much lower on the ballot.

“Traditionally, as you get further down the ballot, we see a recession in voter participation,” Bentz said. “It can be as much as a 20% to 30% reduction.”

“Pay attention to the demographics of your district, because what you’re going to find is that other folks – not your forces – are going to be trying to turn out for partisan candidates, either to improve the Democratic or Republican turnout in your general area,” Bentz said to school business officials.

“Those folks aren’t necessarily getting your information. What their proclivities are and what they lean towards is going to impact your numbers,” Bentz said to school leaders.

In addition, there are 10 ballot initiatives this year, and two are related to education issues, Bentz said.

Prop. 132 Supermajority Vote Requirement for Ballot Measures to Approve Taxes would increase the percentage of votes an initiative or referendum must have to become law.

“This is aimed quite frankly at any funding measure, but in particular with the recent efforts to pass Invest in Ed and other items that had tax increases in them for education,” Bentz said.

“Those issues would have to pass with a 60% vote instead of a 50% plus 1 that is currently codified in our constitution. That’s why it would be a constitutional change,” Bentz said.

Prop. 308 Arizona In-State Tuition for Non-Citizen Residents Measure would allow Arizona students, regardless of immigration status, to be eligible for financial aid at state universities and community colleges and in-state tuition if they graduated from and attended a public or private high school, or home school equivalent, for two years in Arizona.

Voters should check the Arizona  Secretary of State’s website for more information on each ballot initiative.

“All the pro and con statements are laid out for you, and you can really read for yourself just like everybody else the local publicity pamphlets who’s for it and who’s against it,” Bentz said. “It’s clear who backed these things if you look at it.”

“Arizona since its founding has had a strong reliance on and a strong belief in citizen initiative government, and some of these (ballot measures) are definitely aimed at trying to reduce that or at least change the influence of those,” Bentz said.

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Voters cast their ballots for primary elections at the voting center at Surprise City Hall on August 2, 2022. Photo by Lisa Irish/ AZEdNews