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Independent voters now out number both Republicans and Democrats in Arizona.

Mar 22, 2014

Arizona Republic

When I became a Libertarian around 1994 people that registered as an Independent, or better said didn't pick a political party when they registered to vote were only about 10 percent of the registered voters. They have increased in size by almost 4 times that amount to 34 percent of the registered voters.

Clearly people are getting tired of the Republican and Democrats.

Independent voters are now the biggest voting bloc in Arizona

Mary Jo Pitzl, The Republic | 7:49 p.m. EDT March 17, 2014

Independent voters now are the biggest voting block in Arizona, continuing a trend that has been growing nationwide.

Voters registered without an organized party constitute 34.88 percent of voters, according to the Arizona Secretary of State's Office, edging out Republicans by 4,073 voters. Republicans are now the state's second-biggest block, at 34.75 percent, followed by Democrats at 29.54 percent.

Arizona is one of several states that have a plurality of independent voters: Massachusetts and Alaska also have independents topping Republicans and Democrats in their states.

Voter registration trends

The percentage of registered voters identifying themselves as independents has risen steadily over the past two decades, while those say they are Republicans or Democrats have declined.

The growing ranks of the independents aren't reflected in elections, where the choice is typically between a Republican and a Democrat, with an occasional Libertarian candidate. Although independents have been able to vote in partisan primaries since 1998, only about 10 percent of them opt to do so, said Secretary of State Ken Bennett.

Independent voting power

Independent voters now are the biggest voting block in Arizona. Voters registered without an organized party constitute 34.88 percent of voters, according to the Arizona Secretary of State's Office, slightly edging out Republicans.

And the electoral system is stacked against independent candidates, who face higher signature requirements for nomination petitions, and don't qualify for as much public-campaign-funding support as those in established parties, among other things.

Bennett said elections officials in the 15 counties, along with the media, need to make a concerted effort to educate independent voters that they can vote in primaries.

I don't agree with these editorials, but I am just posting them as background information.


Independents rule Arizona - or they should

Editorial board, The Republic | 7:47 p.m. EDT March 17, 2014

Our View: Independents are now Arizona's largest voting bloc, but it means nothing if they don't vote

More Arizona voters now are registered as independents than as members of either major political party, representing a tectonic shift in how voters see themselves: as political and intellectual free agents who vote for individual candidates rather than as political automatons blindly responding to party labels.

That's how independents see themselves. But all the high-mindedness in the world means nothing if voters fail to vote. And, especially in primaries, independent voters are not showing up at the polls.

In his announcement Monday about the dramatic, long-running rise of independent voters, Secretary of State Ken Bennett observed that independents consistently lag partisan voters when it comes to logging votes in primary elections. Arizona law allows independents to vote in the primary election of their choice, whether Republican, Democrat or Libertarian.

The consequences of this failure to show are significant.

A smaller turnout at primary election time allows a smaller — and, often, more ideological — minority of partisans to select which candidates move on to the general election. And in most districts, the primary is the election; there is no real competition in November.

Ironic as it may seem, voters opting to assert their independence from defined political ideologies may help assure the ideologues rule the roost down at the Legislature.

The recent record does not reflect an engaged independent electorate. In the 2012 primary, more than 43 percent of registered Republicans and almost 33 percent of Democrats voted. Just 7.4 percent of independents did.

That is, just 75,000 of more than a million independents voted. It is easy to imagine the results would have been different with greater participation.

To be sure, there are many reasons for the increasing level of partisanship in American politics, both at the state and national levels. It is not only a function of independent-minded voters turning away from the parties.

We strongly suspect that Arizona's system of publicly funding candidates contributes, by providing financial support for marginal and well-qualified candidates alike. The ominpresent Internet has a way of creating audiences for the political crazies among us, too.

With numbers should come responsibility. But the very concept of "responsibility" is difficult to assess as it applies to a group of voters that defines itself by a lack of cohesion or shared values. Some independents lean toward more liberal candidates, others toward conservatives

Regardless which way they lean, the numbers of voters identifying themselves as "Other" is impressive.

With 10,245 new independents registered since January, the number of unaligned voters in Arizona has climbed to 1,134,243. That compares with 1,130,170 Republicans and 960,701 Democrats. More important, independents have increased their numbers consistently over the last two decades, while the numbers affiliated with the major parties consistently has dropped.

The new numbers will help revive efforts to create a top-two primary, in which candidates of all parties compete against each other to move on to the general election.

But that's not the system we have today. Parties they still provide the framework for selecting candidates. Without independent-minded voters helping with those selections, it shouldn't be a surprise that the pool isn't looking pretty.


Independents (could) rule Arizona

Laurie Roberts, The Republic | 7:35 p.m. EDT March 17, 2014

There is good news today for all of you Arizonans who scratch your heads and wonder how our beloved state became kook central. [Said by a kookie socialist gun grabber!!!!]

Good news for you, who support public education. And you over there, who think the Legislature should spend less time making guns more accessible and more time making jobs more accessible – the kind that don't require mad skills with a deep-fat fryer.

There's good news for those of you who don't worry overmuch about the latest federal conspiracy or whether you'll burn in hell if you bake a cake for a gay couple.

For you who believe that compromise is a goal, not a traitorous act.

Independents now are the largest bloc of voters in the state. The group that was only 13 percent of Arizona's electorate 20 years ago has now overtaken the long-dominant Republican Party, comprising now 35 percent of Arizona's voters.

And growing every day.

"Independents have the opportunity to directly influence the direction of our state government," Secretary of State/gubernatorial candidate Ken Bennett said Monday, in announcing that independents now outnumber both Republicans and Democrats.

Bennett's right. Independents can change things – if they want to, that is.

Surely, they should want to.

"A great many people who register as independents are making a statement when they do so," former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson, a Democrat-turned-independent who pushed the failed top-two primary proposal in 2012, told me. "They're fed up with the existing system. They're fed up with the parties that seem to be controlled by special interests. They're fed up with people who cannot use common sense in trying to dictate our public policy. And they're looking for ways to make our government work."

They might start by filling out a ballot.

In 1998, Arizona voters opened up the state's primary-election system, inviting independents to have a voice in who would represent them. Independents, we were told, felt disenfranchised. They wanted a seat at the primary-election table, a say in who would run this state.

Sixteen years later, we're still waiting for them to show up.

In 2012, 43.5 percent of Republicans and nearly 33 percent of Democrats voted in the primary – the election in which most legislators and congressional representatives are chosen. Meanwhile, a pitiful 7.38 percent of independents cast ballots.

And you wonder why the Legislature spends more time listening to Cathi Herrod and her Center for Arizona Policy than to the rest of the state?

When I launched Operation Dekookification in 2012 -- the search for a Legislature that is actually representative of Arizona -- I heard every sort of reason why Arizona's one million independent voters are no-shows in the primary. Some don't realize they can vote. Others are offended at having to choose between a Republican and Democratic ballot, or discouraged by the paucity of choices.

Some just assume they'll automatically get a ballot because they're on the permanent early-voting list, not realizing they have to reach out to the county election department and request either a Republican or Democratic ballot before every election.

That's by design, by the way. The Republican and Democratic parties don't want independents to vote in their primaries, so the system is set up to make it harder for them to participate.

Of course, it's inevitable that things will have to change as the parties continue driving voters away.

Plans are already afoot to bring back a new, improved version of the top-two primary initiative in 2016. If that fails, I suspect it won't be too long before a lawsuit is filed, challenging the use of taxpayer money to finance the elections in which the parties choose their nominees. Questioning whether such a subsidy constitutes unconstitutional gift of taxpayer money.

The largest bloc of those taxpayers, after all, have now spurned the parties.

They could change things in Arizona. They could, in short order, dekook the Arizona Capitol, delivering us a Legislature that actually lines up with the people who live here. All they have to do is …

… Vote.


Take the independent voter challenge

Joanna Allhands, The Republic | 3:39 p.m. EDT March 17, 2014 87753346

I used to live in the most Republican county in Indiana. Most local elections were decided in the primaries, and those ballots were only open to registered Republicans.

It didn't matter if you didn't really like the party. You had to register as if you were in line with the GOP because that was the only way you could vote.

It always seemed so disingenuous. I thought it was ridiculous that you had to choose a side in order to vote -- and, of course, as soon as I moved to Arizona, I became an independent. You can vote in every primary here except the presidential one. It's easy: all you have to do is tell the state which ballot you want.

I guess that's why I get so annoyed at other independents. They seem to use their independence as an excuse to tune out, to not vote. They seem content to leave important decisions to a few thousand people on the extreme right and left.

And then they have the nerve to complain about the direction of this state.

No more.

Independents are now the majority, according to voter-registration figures released this morning, and frankly, we need to start acting like it. Take charge of your voice. Just raise your right hand and repeat after me:

"I, (state your name), hereby pledge to vote in this year's elections. I will request a ballot for the August primary election -- and when it comes, I will actually bother to fill it out and drop it in the mail. I'm not a slacker. I care about Arizona. And I will be heard."


Independents now outnumber Republicans, Democrats in Arizona

Posted: Monday, March 17, 2014 1:00 pm

By Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services

Independents now outnumber both Republicans and Democrats in Arizona as voters continue to abandon the two major parties.

But that actually could lead to further political polarization on both ends of the political spectrum, at least in the short term.

New figures Monday from the Secretary of State's Office show there are now 1,134,243 people registered to vote who have chosen not to belong to any of the four recognized parties. The other two are the Libertarian and Independent American parties; the Green Party failed to maintain enough voters.

Pollster Earl deBerge said the numbers are no surprise as more and more Arizonans are “disaffected” by the two major parties. He said those who choose not to register with them want a more moderate path.

But deBerge noted independents just don't vote when it really counts: in the primary.

Secretary of State Ken Bennett agreed. He said it's not unusual to have 60-plus percent of people registered with parties actually vote in the primary.

State law allows independents also to vote in either party's primary. Bennett estimated that fewer than 10 percent of them bother to show up for the late-August vote.

It's actually worse than that: Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne put the independent turnout in 2012 at just 7 percent.

So who's left in the party – and who turns out – are those who are the true die-hards.

“As the parties shrink ... moderates move to the center and become independents,” deBerge said. And that is happening with both parties.

“As that happens, there's no doubt there's no doubt that the parties will become more ‘dogmatic’ by virtue of the fact that the people who are left are more dogmatic,” he said.

That's also the contention of pollster and political consultant Bruce Merrill.

“The people that stay in the parties are increasingly going to be more ideological,” he said. “It's the people that are kind of disgusted with what's going on with both the Democratic and Republican sides that leave the party.”

Pollster Michael O'Neil also has watched the trends from the time two decades ago when independents were fewer than 15 percent of the electorate.

“I think it kind of reflects a general disgust in the culture,” he said. “As people are registering to vote, they're saying, ‘I really don't like either of these guys.’”

But O'Neil, while agreeing that that independents do not turn out that the polls, is not sure that the declining numbers of those who identify themselves as Republicans or Democrats will create more extremist politics than what already exists in Arizona.

Bennett, though, said he can foresee the possibility of the disaffected voters leaving the parties – and leaving the parties and the primaries – to the true believers.

More to the point, he noted that the primary becomes the de facto election in the vast majority of legislative districts where one party or the other is so dominant that the other party's candidate really stands no chance in the November general election. So the ultimate winners become the candidates who appealed to those who continue to remain registered with their parties.

That left Bennett, who also is in a crowded Republican primary for governor, to plead for more independent participation in the primaries.

“We encourage a better turnout amongst this very important group in our primary elections,” he said.

There is an alternative to make independents more relevant: A top-two primary, where all candidates run against each other and all voters get to make their choices. Then the top vote-getters face off in the general election, even if it turns out that both are Republicans.

Voters had a chance to create such a system in 2012 but the measure was rejected.

Merrill thinks the problem will resolve itself as older voters – the ones most linked to parties – die off and candidates realize they cannot count on party affiliation to get them elected.