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Arizona veterans support open primaries initiative


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(Arizona News Connection) Memorial Day is less than two weeks away, and for two Arizona veterans, it's a time to honor those who lost their lives while defending the United States, as well as stand up for democratic ideals like freedom and fairness.

Former Lt. Col. John Webster served in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years and thinks systemic barriers in Arizona's electoral system disenfranchise independent voters like him from participating in elections, which in turn prevents independent candidates from getting onto the ballot.

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"Sometimes you have to change the system to get those people in," he explained. "It is this system that is giving you the politicians or the leaders that are at odds with each other and struggling. You're not going to see real change or consensus building until you go down one more level and you make an institutional change."

That is why Webster supports a bipartisan initiative pushing for open primaries in the Grand Canyon State. Currently, independent voters, the largest voting bloc in Arizona, are required to select either a Republican or Democratic ballot to participate in the state's primary election, taking place next month. Independent and unaffiliated candidates must collect up to six times the number of signatures as a partisan candidate to get on the ballot.

While Webster would like to see change, proponents argue closed primaries are integral to keeping party ideals consistent.

Former Lt. Col. T.J. Lindberg served in the U.S. Army from 1995 to 2015, including combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. For many military personnel, learning to consider and listen to various stakeholder perspectives is crucial; he wants to see the same approach when it comes to governing.

"We need people who are looking at the entire problem set and figuring out how to put all these things together. And I think that is where your independent voter and your independent, retired, or active military officer or noncommissioned officer, I think that really ends up shaping your views," Lindberg suggested.

Lindberg said the open primary movement in Arizona has a real opportunity to allow "middle of the spectrum, solution-oriented" leaders the chance to play a larger role in addressing problems -- not only at the state level, but nationally and internationally, too.