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Young Arizona voters turning out in big numbers in early vote

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

PHOENIX — Young voters in Arizona already have cast more ballots in this year’s presidential election than they did in the 2016 election, according to a voter advocacy group.

More than 137,000 young Arizonans 18 to 29 years old have voted either by mail or in person, a 55% increase from the total number of ballots they cast in 2016, NextGen Arizona said.

Arizona voters ages 30 to 39 also have voted in larger numbers. More than 149,000 of them have voted so far, surpassing total turnout for that age group in 2016 by 44%.

The majority of young voters who’ve cast a ballot so far are Democrats.

“Young people are ignited this year,” Kristi Johnston, press secretary for NextGen Arizona, told KTAR News 92.3 FM. “We have strength in numbers and something to fight for. This combination is really what’s shattering all expectations we have for this election cycle.”

Johnston said the fight for racial equality is motivating young Arizonans to vote, adding they were “on the front lines of this movement.”

The coronavirus pandemic is also driving them to the polls. Johnston said many young people are unemployed due to the pandemic and some have lost family members to the virus.

Also driving young voters to the polls is climate change, education and the cost of college, she added.

Groups like NextGen Arizona have had to change the way they do voter outreach this year because of the pandemic.

Johnston said her group switched from reaching out to voters in person at events and college campuses to completely virtual organizing.

“We knew it would come with its challenges and it did,” she said. “But we adapted and came out stronger.”

She added the latest voter turnout numbers for young Arizonans show the switch “didn’t have any negative effects it seems in terms of turnout.”

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