Arizona Independents Reach Out to Candidates

Independent voters in Arizona have sent letters to each of the 2020 presidential candidate outlining a looming voting rights injustice in which one third of the state’s voters will be denied the right to vote in the primary election because they are independents.

The letter notes that independents are permitted to vote in every other primary and general election held in Arizona and that exclusion from voting in the Democratic Presidential Preference Election is ‚Äúpunitive and arbitrary.‚Ä̬† It also states that the ‚Äúexclusion can be corrected by simple action of the Arizona Democratic Party.

It states:

Dear _______:

On March 17, 2020¬†the Arizona¬†Democratic Party¬†will hold its presidential primary, known as the Presidential Preference Election (‚ÄúPPE‚ÄĚ). The Arizona Republican Party has closed ranks behind Donald Trump and decided not to hold a primary. However, as currently designed, the Democratic PPE will exclude fully one third (34%) of the state‚Äôs electorate from participating. These¬†voters (1,267,340 as of July 1, 2019)¬†are registered independents. As you may be aware, independents¬†are permitted to vote in every other primary and general election held in Arizona. Thus, their exclusion from voting in the Democratic¬†Presidential Preference Election is punitive and arbitrary. The good news is that this exclusion can be corrected by a simple action of the Arizona Democratic Party.

We are writing to ask that you call on Arizona Democratic State Chair Felecia Rottelini and the elected State Committee to open the 2020 PPE to independent voters. They have the full authority to do this at their party’s upcoming state committee meeting on September 21st in Prescott, Arizona.

Gallup’s June poll shows that 46% of voters nationwide identify as independents. Among veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, 49% are independents. Among millennials, the number is over 50%. In Arizona, over 40% of Latino voters choose to be independents. This is a community of voters that should not be marginalized by an obsolete practice. In Arizona, we are taxpayers who are currently forced to fund an election from which we are excluded.

Independents have been determining the outcome of national elections for over a decade. Increased turnout by independents in the 2018 midterms was widely credited with swinging control of the U.S. House of Representatives to the Democratic Party. Standing up for independents’ right to vote in the Arizona presidential primary elections is critical now.

Arizona’s 2016 presidential primary was a debacle that made national headlines when many independent voters, then the largest voting community in the state, came out to vote and were turned away. This became one of the excuses offered by election officials for their failure to provide sufficient voting locations, and independents were blamed for the long lines in which voters waited for up to five hours to cast a ballot. Far from being the cause of problems in the state’s voting system, independent voters are the victims of its defects. Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes, a Democrat elected to replace the former Recorder responsible for the debacle, is an outspoken advocate for opening 2020 presidential primary voting to non-aligned voters. He is joined by one of state’s leading civil rights attorneys, Danny Ortega.

We acknowledge that seeking the nomination of the Democratic Party means abiding by the rules of a private organization with associational rights protected by the Supreme Court of the United States. We also rely on the Supreme Court ruling that allows political parties to open their primaries without court or legislative approval. Thus, this exclusion can be solved simply by state party action.

You seek the office of President of the United States. That means standing up for a healthy and inclusive democracy for all Americans, regardless of party or non-affiliation. We ask that you make your support for an inclusive PPE known to your Arizona party leaders at the soonest possible moment.