Can independents fix primary elections?

In Arizona, independents can vote in the primary elections without changing their affiliation. They only need to notify the Arizona Secretary of State of their "Party Ballot Preference," or in other words, which primary they want to vote in: DEM, REP, LBT, or GRN. It's that simple. It can even be done online at www.Request.Maricopa.Vote.

For the August 28, 2018 Primary Election, it means notifying the Secretary of State's office on or before July 14, 2018.

Why bother?

This year both major parties have competitive primary elections at all levels of government in Arizona. Statewide, the Democratic and Republican primaries for U.S. Senate, Governor, Secretary of State, and Superintendent of Public Instruction are competitive.

Given that there are more than 1.2 million independents registered to vote in the State, nearly as many as the number of Republicans and significantly more than the number of Democrats, no statewide candidate can ignore a faction this large if it chooses to participate in the candidate's primary election.

Dominate party candidates running for the U.S. House of Representatives in congressional districts 1 through 8 must also reckon with the fact that independents range from 77 to 90 percent of their own party's registered voter figure.

And in Congressional District 9, where Republicans have four primary candidates and Democrats have two, independents outnumber voters in both parties.

District 9 Voter Registration as March 1, 2018

  • Independents 136,635
  • Democrats 130,682
  • Republicans 121,533

At the State Legislative level, there are competitive primaries in many of the State's 30 districts: AZ 2018 Legislative Primary. Take the State Senate race in District 23, for example, where I am running as an independent in the General Election.

State Legislative District 23

It has four Republicans competing in the primary, Michelle Ugenti-Rita who is currently serving in the House, and three first-time candidates: Gavan Searles, Kristina Kelly, and Timothy Jefferies.

There are more than 55,000 independents registered in District 23, the largest number of registered independents in any of the State's 30 legislative districts.

If independents get involved in the District 23 Republican primary, it could put some common sense back into primary campaigns and yield a better overall Republican candidate in the general election.

By making their presence known, D23 independents will be demonstrating that they turn out to vote, driving all four Republican candidates to deliver a consistent message.

How many times have we heard that a candidate is appealing to his or her base with this or that extreme statement, but will move to the center during the general election? Who wants that?

By registering to vote in the D23 Republican Primary, independents can put an end to the schizophrenic behavior that has infected our election system. And voila! Reason enters into a candidate's platform at the primary level.

I know what you're thinking

As an independent myself, I have chosen to vote in the Republican primary. There are a good number of competitive Republican primary races at the State and Federal level, in addition to the one in State Legislative D-23.

As I mentioned, I'll be competing against the winner of the Republican primary and the Democrat, Daria Lohman, for the State Senate seat in the General Election.

I won't be gaming the Republican primary and voting for the candidate that I think I have the best chance of beating. For me, a competitive general election is winning. And giving District 23 the best candidates is my goal.

I'm running because we need an independent in our State Legislature, someone with a clean slate who can act as a catalyst for bi-partisan legislation that is long lasting and puts education, healthcare, and public safety on a stable financial footing.

The numbers are there

There are more than 1.2 million registered independents in Arizona. Granted, the independent faction in Arizona is not a party and does not have a platform, and so has yet to coalesce around its core positions. I do believe, however, that the following principles are at the heart of every Arizona independent:

  • Put the public interest ahead of all partisan and special interests
  • Use common sense and search for common ground when addressing Arizona's problems
  • Stand for opportunity, equality, and stewardship
  • Champion competition, transparency, and accountability
  • Remain informed and engaged

If independents are engaged in Arizona primary elections, the principles outlined will influence campaigns and improve the primary process for everyone. So what are you waiting for? Get your civic duty on, pick a party in the 2018 Primary Elections.

Artwork by Kelli Fox

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