A Narrowing Gap

Republicans gained ground at the Arizona Legislature in last year’s election and have now captured the governor’s office, thanks to Democrat Janet Napolitano’s decision to split town and turn over the keys to Republican Jan Brewer.

That has some GOP activists crowing that Arizona remains a reliably red state.

But the voter registration numbers though Jan. 1, which were released by Secretary of State Ken Bennett, tell a different story.

Both parties have added voters over the last year in the run-up to the 2008 presidential election. Republicans added 111,159 to climb to a total of 1,140,609, but Democrats added 157,711, to climb to 1,047,126. (In addition, 105,295 new independent voters joined the voting roles, increasing that number to 860,095.)

On a percentage basis, Republicans dipped from 38.25 percent of the total voters to 37.15 percent, while Democrats increased their overall percentage from 33.04 percent to 34.10 percent since Jan. 1, 2008.

No one knows how many of the voters who signed up to vote in a presidential election will stick around; there will undoubtedly be a drop in the 2010 elections.

But if Republicans at the Legislature continue with plans to slash education funding as a way of solving the current budget shortfall, they may just help Democrats close that registration gap even further. And Republicans in swing districts—such as Sen. Al Melvin and Rep. Vic Williams in Pima County’s Legislative District 26—may discover the hard way that they're not coming back for a second term.