Independents Unite and Become a Force

Independents Unite and Become a Force
Kim Ames-Wright and Al Bell

A new study of independent voters reports that 67 percent of all Arizona voters think “the two-party system has outlived its usefulness.” Dissatisfaction with the political process runs high.

So we were happy to see an overwhelming majority — upwards of 75 percent of surveyed Democrats, Republicans and independents — want to see independents organize.

“Voters are looking for more options,” the study, commissioned by the Arizona Clean Elections Commission, concluded, “They just don’t know how to access them.”

We couldn’t agree more.

We are independent voter activists in the state, having formed Independent Voters for Arizona (“IV4A”), to give greater voice to and empower this expanding and under-represented constituency.

Independents are organizing, but not into a party — rather, into a force for political change. We’ve opened an office in Phoenix and are reaching out to and speaking with independents statewide for that purpose.

For us, the study is to be applauded as the first such effort in Arizona to examine who we are and why we’re growing so rapidly. It offered some new and important insights, as well as some still limited views of who independents are.

We were proud to be represented at the forum, not just talked about. It allowed us to offer insights based on our own independent-to-independent polling experiences and the perspective from the national organization with which we are affiliated,

For example, the study uniquely asked members of its focus groups “Why did you become an independent?” This obvious question is typically skipped over in a rush to define independents on the basis of their voting history or ideology.

The answers revealed why there is such widespread dissatisfaction with the political process: Independents keenly understand that the current political parties represent the parties’ interests, not the interests of the people.

The parties put ideology over governing, demand loyalty over building new partnerships and trump creative innovation with old ideas.

Our own grass-roots surveys across the state on why people register independent have yielded three top reasons: 1) I want to be able to vote for the best candidate, irrespective of party identification. 2) I want to vote, but I don’t want any party telling me who to vote for and 3) I don’t like the political climate in the state; it is far too partisan.

The limitations of the study appeared in places where independents were viewed using the prism of the existing two-party system. For example, much of the study defined independents by their location on a traditional left-center-right continuum. That leaves out a self-defining feature of who independents are.

Cathy Stewart, vice president for national development at, who was invited to present a report from the field at the study’s unveiling, explained that independents “are making a determined move away from that very paradigm — a move away from the political parties and the traditional party pillars — partisanship and ideology.”

“Independents are looking for new ways,” she said, “to get out of the partisan stalemates and create new coalitions and new ways to collaborate on dealing with our most pressing issues.”

In Arizona, we are currently circulating a letter to the chairs of the Democratic and Republican parties asking them to do the right thing, the fair thing: To open the presidential primaries to independents.

Independents, the largest community of voters in the state, are excluded, which makes for a stark statement about party interests vs. public interest. No American should have to join a party to have the right to vote. The thousands of Arizona voters – Democrats, Republicans and independents – who have signed onto the letter are making a simple and powerful appeal for fairness.

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