Reproductive freedom and gun control are influencing how University of Arizona students will vote as the 2022 midterm elections loom.
“Obviously, the abortion stuff, like getting people in there who will actually try and protect the rights to my body,” said Adalia Elizondo-Craig, an environmental sciences freshman, who will be voting for the first time.
“When I was 17, it was like my countdown until I could register to vote. That's how I saw my 18th birthday,” Elizondo-Craig said.
Other students haven’t exactly thought about the election yet, even though the Nov. 8 date is less than three weeks away.
“I don't really know. I haven't looked into it too much, so I gotta do some more research,” said senior Andrew Alexander, who voted for the first time in 2020, “because I wanted to. I mean, my whole family was doing it so I wanted to put my say.”
Nationally, the issue of abortion has seen a dramatic increase in importance among Democrats since the Supreme Court of the United States overturned Roe v. Wade’s 50-year precedent legalizing abortion in June. According to PEW Research Center, more than half of all registered voters and 71% of registered Democrats consider abortion important in their midterm election decisions.
In Arizona, a Sept. 23 decision by the Pima County Superior Court made nearly all abortions illegal, with doctors facing up to five years in prison for performing the procedure. Some abortions up to 15 weeks of pregnancy have resumed after an Oct. 8 ruling from the Arizona Court of Appeals blocked enforcement of the near total ban that was written in 1864.
Alton Zhang, president of the UA College Republicans, predicts that reproductive rights will also increase turnout of Conservative women wanting to reaffirm the decision to overturn Roe.
“I do believe that Roe v. Wade will get people from both sides of the aisle to come out, especially women,” Zhang said.
When it comes to gun violence, the Oct. 5 campus shooting of professor Thomas Meixner could affect student’s choices in the midterms, according to Anastasia Taylor, president of the UA Young Democrats.
“Gun control is definitely on people's minds,” Taylor said. “I think students are really worried about their reproductive freedom and their freedom to study in an environment without being scared that there is going to be a gunman on campus.”
Zhang expressed concern among Republican students over gun violence as well, but suggested the solution is actually expanding gun access, citing Arizona Senate Bill 1123 that would allow concealed carrying of firearms on college campuses.
“If you want to have an answer, it must be the victim who is able to stop that violence,” Zhang said.
Taylor says the Young Democrats are also concerned about Republican candidate for governor Kari Lake’s claim that she will not accept the outcome of the election if she loses.
Currently, the governor’s race between Lake and Democrat Katie Hobbs is the tightest in the state.
According to a Sept. 28 poll by Marist, only one point separates Lake and Hobbs among registered voters; 46% support Lake and 45% support Hobbs. Among those who reported they will “definitely” vote, Lake has a slightly stronger lead with 49% over Hobbs's 46%.
One challenge for student political groups is that it’s a struggle to get students from out-of-state to vote in their college town.
“It's really hard to convince students who come from all around the country to say Arizona is more important than where you previously lived,” Taylor said. “They have a lot of feelings about their home state.”
According to Zhang, Arizona’s status as a swing state can convince some students to vote here. To do so, students need to register to vote in the state, according to the Pima County Recorders office.
“For students who come from states that are pretty strong one way or the other, they usually vote for Arizona elections,” Zhang said.
Mallory Kruse, a pharmaceutical sciences senior, says interest in voting is high in her circle.
“I think everyone needs to vote because everyone's vote will make a difference,” Kruse said.
Early voting opened in Arizona on Oct. 11. The last day to request a ballot by mail is Oct. 28. Students voting by mail in Arizona should make sure to mail their ballots by Nov. 1.
*El Inde Arizona is a news service of the University of Arizona School of Journalism.
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