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Arizona proposal for open primaries could benefit Independent voters

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Alex Gonzalez

(Arizona News Connection) Arizonans could vote on a proposal next year some advocates said would make politics more equitable in the Grand Canyon State.

This week, the Make Elections Fair Arizona committee, made up of Republicans, Democrats and Independents, filed a citizens' initiative to amend the Arizona Constitution. It would require the state's future primary elections to be open to all candidates and voters, regardless of party affiliation. Arizona currently conducts partisan primaries.

Sarah Smallhouse, chair of the committee, said it is a challenge for independent or unaffiliated candidates and for the largest registered voter bloc in the state.

"It's fundamentally a question of fairness, of giving everyone an equal opportunity to participate in our political system without having to go through extra steps," Smallhouse contended. "For example, Independent candidates right now have to collect six times as many signatures to be on a General Election ballot."

Smallhouse pointed out unaffiliated and third-party voters pay taxes to fund the current partisan political system, leading to what her group sees as voter disenfranchisement. She acknowledged they expect to get pushback on the proposal from the major parties.

Beau Lane, co-chair of the committee, said the move could empower voters and lead to higher turnout. He noted Independents are often left feeling overlooked and not represented. Lane argued the proposal would also foster healthier competition among candidates, and cultivate what he called more of a "problem-solving approach," instead of, in his words, "the politics of contempt."

"You know, they want to look at the other side as the enemy and not somebody that they could actually cooperate with and get good policy put in place for the State of Arizona," Lane emphasized. "Polling indicates that is about where 70% of the people in Arizona want that type of political activity, of problem-solving."

The initiative has been filed with the Arizona Secretary of State. It will be reviewed and recommendations will be made to the committee. It should be finalized by the end of October, when the group can then work on gathering the estimated 500,000 signatures needed by next June to get it onto the November 2024 ballot.