ASU Political Science Professor Richard Herrera discusses the latest voter registration numbers for Arizona.
Ted Simons: New voter registration numbers are out for Arizona. And here to talk about the numbers and what they mean for the state is ASU political science professor Richard Herrera. It's good to see you. Thanks for joining us.
Richard Herrera: Glad to be here.
Ted Simons: Looks like according to secretary of state's office, the number of registered voters down since the last count. What are you seeing here?
Richard Herrera: The story is more complicated than that. Yes, the number of registered voters is down, but the number of voters who could vote in the next election is not necessarily down. And the reason is, registered voters, the way the secretary of state's reporting them, is those who are active. And that can mean a number of things. But they also have another category of inactive voters who if they were to vote in the next election, they still go right back on the active list. They're not purged, they're just put in another category unless they're off the rolls due to a death or something like that, or they move out of state. Otherwise, just because a voter doesn't vote, doesn't mean they're purged from the roles, just that they're put on the inactive list.
Ted Simons: The secretary of state's office did mention county purging usually happens this time of year, so that's why so many -- every party, Democrat, Republican, Independent, all lost some voters. You're saying not quite as much as reported?
Richard Herrera: Not quite as much if you were to combine the active and inactive. Which is probably more accurate, only because it's still not going to be quite exact because of some people moving out of state, some people dying, but some of those people might just be people who missed three elections, if you miss three you can be put in the inactive list. There's a variety of reasons you why might miss three elections, so you might still be an active voter in the presidential year especially, when maybe you're not active in the midterm electrics or other elections. So you've missed a couple. So it's a little bit misleading, what the counties are doing is going through regular maintenance of their rolls, they do that usually April, July, October. And so you do see fluctuation. If you look over time you see fluctuations in the numbers and you get these results.
Ted Simons: Now, the last election did not seem to bring out as many Democrats as did it Republicans. Does that mean if the quote unquote purging of the rolls is from folks who maybe didn't vote in the last election, would that affect democrats more or it is the last three elections?
Richard Herrera: It's the last three elections before you can be moved into the inactive list.
Ted Simons: All right. Numbers anyway, general numbers from the secretary of state's office. Republicans at 1.1 million, independents right at about a million, democrats right under a million. What do we take from those numbers?
Richard Herrera: That does give arough breakdown of the percentage of voters in those categories. What's also interesting, those independents, it's been the case for a while independents outnumber democrats. And -- one of the interesting features is, when you look at the actual general election results, democrats will outnumber independents. And so it's not necessarily the case just because they're more independent -- voters who are registered as independent or no party affiliation outvote democrats. Democrats actually turn out to the polls more.
Ted Simons: We know one thing about independents, they don't vote quite as often as party members.
Richard Herrera: Right. That's a popular myth about independent voters that they tend to be more apt to vote than party registered voters.
Ted Simons: What else do we know about these independent voters? I'm saying that because hypothetically, but if you're a Republican you seem like you know where you stand, Democrat, you know where you stand. Who are Independents in Arizona?
Richard Herrera: Independents in Arizona are independents and a lot of them are independent-independent people. They don't want to affiliate with either party and they will vote for either party. Those sorts of independents tend not to vote as often as independent who's lean toward one party or the other. In Arizona you see more independents who actually lean more toward Republicans in general. So they do tend to vote fairly often and that's -- that can tip elections. But if you just look at the independent category, there's three types. There's independents who are really independent, they tend to vote less than those who lean democrats or lean Republican.
Ted Simons: Interesting. The idea of independent usually you hear that's a disaffected democrat or Republican, they'll still lean that direction. They're just not happy with the party right now. Is that valid?
Richard Herrera: Yeah, I think that's valid. What you see is the disaffected ones might be independent-independent or don't register at all. And so the ones who actually are independent democrats and independent Republicans are not so disaffected. Again, that is a strong term to use, they're going to vote probably and they're probably going to vote toward that inclination.
Ted Simons: Arizona by law as far as the primaries are concerned, presidential preference elections, you've got to vote within your party that means for independents, there's really not much of a game, and in the next cycle if things hold true, Democrats won't have much to vote for either.
Richard Herrera: That's correct. Republican prime I have going tonight one that's going to be watched. The only one you can participate in to have any influence and you got to be a registered Republican to do it.
Ted Simons: Is there any, I know there was a lot of movement at one point, I haven't heard much lately regarding changing that. Letting the whole thing be open for everyone.
Richard Herrera: Some states have open party primaries, there's a variety of permutations. The closed party primaries are usually those that the party's central committee, the state parties favor because they control more, who makes that choice for the state. And so they're favored by party regulars. Independents would like some say, so they would like more of the open process and some candidates benefit from open primary states.
Ted Simons: We talked about the numbers. Everything around a million, Republicans first, Indendpendents second and Democrats third, but everybody is bunched up together. We had heard a couple of cycles ago that Arizona was trending purple. Not so red, but certainly not a Democratic state, but somewhere in the middle. And this last election, just a conservative and Republican landslide. What do we take from these numbers? What are we seeing?
Richard Herrera: Probably the speculation that the state was turning purple was overstated. That really the numbers have been pretty trending in the same direction for a number of years. Since 1986, Republicans became -- had more registered voters than democrats. Since then, that gap between Republicans and democrats has only expanded. There isn't any evidence I've seen that democrats are making a comeback as far as party voting.
Ted Simons: Why has that gap expanded?
Richard Herrera: There's a number of reasons why people choose Republican party status and it could be new voters who -- in the state, that is a socialization of younger voters in Arizona being socialized by the politics of the states. Parents' influence, so they would adopt that same party registration. Also new voters coming into the state, as well, what we may be seeing is an exodus of democrats, perhaps, we don't know that, but we could see an influx of more Republicans.
Ted Simons: We heard places like Colorado, New Mexico, there was flux going on, change going on. And Arizona was supposedly seeing some of that change as well. We're not hearing that talk.
Richard Herrera: I think a lot of that talk is due to the last election. What happens in the succeeding elections they're going to make a difference, so for example the whole redistricting battle is going on right now. Can make a difference, so if you were to see competitive districts sort of winning the day, and democrats actually taking back a couple of seats, then you're going to hear the same talk. And that's based on results rather than party registration.
Ted Simons: Good information. Good to have you here.
Richard Herrera: Glad to be here.
Richard Herrera:Political Science Professor,ASU