By Ford Burkhart

Arizona’s older voters are focused on Social Security and health care. The state elects a governor, a U.S. senator and nine U.S. House members this year. And control of Congress is up for grabs.

You’d think that would be enough to motivate 50-plus voters to head to the polls this fall.

But AARP Arizona, knowing the state’s history of low turnout in midterm elections, isn’t relaxing its election efforts. Dan Martinez, 72, of Gilbert, AARP’s volunteer state president, said he’s putting a spotlight on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid because he’s concerned about those programs.

An AARP-Politico poll of Arizona voters 50 and older found that Social Security was a top issue for 78 percent of respondents; health care was the second-most cited, at 76 percent; and Medicare and national security were other big concerns.

AARP is working to draw more 50-plus voters to the polls across the state, and stepping up voter engagement and registration efforts in Prescott, Phoenix and Tucson.

“We have an opportunity to choose our elected officials every two years, but many opt to do it only every four years,” said Steve Jennings, AARP Arizona advocacy director. “A significant part of our strategy this year is to get the drop-off voters to the polls.”

Jennings said the association is reaching out to groups that census data show vote at lower rates in nonpresidential elections years, such as blacks, Hispanics and people with disabilities.

On Nov. 6, Gov. Doug Ducey (R), 54, faces a challenge from educator David Garcia (D), 48, while Reps. Martha McSally (R), 52, and Kyrsten Sinema (D), 42, are competing for an open Senate seat.

Using tele-town halls
AARP Arizona has been setting up various tele-town halls that can be aimed at specific voters. It’s a good way to get the word out quickly.

“A physical town hall gathering might reach just a few hundred,” Jennings pointed out. “If we have the events over the telephone, we think we can reach 100,000 people in 30 minutes.”

In addition to seeking stronger numbers, AARP Arizona wants older voters to be as informed as possible.

“We are doing all we can to educate our members on the issues that are important to voters and their families in this election,” said Dana Marie Kennedy, AARP Arizona state director. Among the key concerns are pharmaceutical prices, home care affordability, health insurance and the financial viability of rural hospitals.

“We will be offering the tele-town halls for candidates to answer questions, if they want to participate,” Kennedy said. “We are using the media and everything possible to let people know where they stand.”

AARP Arizona leaders say they want to hear not just promises to protect programs like Social Security and Medicare but viable solutions as well. Members can contact the state office for information at 866-389-5649, toll-free, or aarpaz@aarp.org. AARP is nonpartisan and doesn’t recommend candidates, but urges everyone to vote.

AARP’s message, Jennings said, will be, “Use your vote to hold the politicians accountable and make them pay attention to the issues that really matter to you. Every vote counts—including yours.”