UPDATE: The Arizona Republic did include my answers in its release. Thank you Mr. Kwok!
Letter to Mr. Abe Kwok, Deputy Opinion Page Editor at The Arizona Republic | azcentral.com
Dear Mr. Kwok:
Even though the Arizona Republic has reported on it many times, it is worth repeating that there are 1.2 million registered Independents in Arizona. That figure is 130,000 more than the number of registered Democrats and only 35,000 less than the number of registered Republicans.
So why hasn’t at least one independent been elected to public office? Doesn’t the U.S Constitution guarantee us a representative democracy?
In part, not entirely, it is because media outlets, like The Arizona Republic, and other organizations, like the Arizona Citizens Clean Election Commission, have failed to reference Independents in their primary coverage – even the Arizona Secretary of State’s office, a slow bureaucratic government agency, has created an online page, active during primary season, dedicated to Independents who will be in the general election.
I’ve heard reporters and editors say that since Independents do not participate in the primaries, we should not reference them. The first part is correct, Independents don’t participate in the primaries, but that should not necessarily lead to the conclusion that media outlets need not reference them in articles and voter guides about the primaries.
The lead up to the primaries is big, much bigger than the time between the primary election and the general election. To be fair, transparent, and provide equal time to all candidates, referencing Independents during the primaries is warranted.
By excluding Independents during primary season, media outlets diminish the exposure of Independents by half if not more, and double the impact of party-affiliated candidates.
This is especially concerning when one consider those primaries that go uncontested. Thanks to decades of gerrymandering, many primaries have only one candidate from one party on the ballot. In 2016 more than half of Arizona's legislative primary contestants went unchallenged.
Even more galling and ironic is that if Independents had declined to respond to the voter guide questionnaire, they would have gotten more immediate coverage from The Arizona Republic. Their names would have been mentioned in the list of candidates who did not respond: Which Arizona candidates didn't answer our Voters Guide?, whereas now they have to wait until after the primary elections to have their answers published.
I would like to see The Arizona Republic’s Primary Election Voter Guide reference Independent candidates when providing information about the primary candidates. By doing so, it will treat all candidates for public office equally and recognize the non-partisan affiliation of one-third of the Arizona electorate.
If these appeals to good judgment and journalist integrity don’t resonate, take a look at the demographic profile of registered Independents in Arizona. The bell curve of unaffiliated voters does not bulge with 50 and 60-year-olds. It bulges with 20 and 30-year-olds, and so more articles and information about Independents might, in the long-run, be good for business.
Christopher Leone is an Independent running for the Arizona State Senate in District 23. After a career with HR Block, he worked at the Arizona House of Representatives. He is a Founding Member of Unite America. Website | www.voteleone.org • Email | firstname.lastname@example.org • Twitter & Instagram | CBLeone
Cc: Kathy Knecht – Independent running for the Arizona State Senate in District 21. Website | www.electknecht.org • Email | email@example.com • Twitter | @KDKinAZ • Facebook |@ElectKnecht4AZSenate.