Primary election overhaul in Arizona could benefit independent voters

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There is a statewide initiative underway to eliminate partisan primaries. There are nearly 1.5 million registered Independents, more than Republicans or Democrats in Arizona, yet they are not allowed to participate in primaries unless they choose either a Republican or a Democratic party ballot. That means for the presidential preference ballot, the largest group of voters doesn’t have a say, yet their tax dollars pay for the primary. Beau Lane thinks that should change and we should allow Independents to vote in primaries.

“What it does is create open primaries. You don’t get rid of parties. There are four recognized parties in Arizona. But what it does allow is for everyone to have the same playing field to get onto the ballot. Right now, it requires an independent about six times more signatures on a petition to even qualify for the ballot. We’re in a situation in Arizona right now where the majority of voters are independents. Independents are growing, and the Democratic and Republican parties are losing members,” said Lane.

Lane sits on the board of Save Democracy, the group behind the petition to try and eliminate the partisan primaries. They’re required to gather 350,000 signatures to get on the ballot, but Lane said the goal is to collect 500,000 signatures or more.

“This is very specific to just open primaries, where everybody appears on the same ballot with the same qualifications. Everyone receives the ballots which means all independents will receive the ballots in the primary. Right now it’s very difficult for independents to access a ballot. Historically, less than 10% of independents vote in Arizona primaries, and that doesn’t seem representative of the population now,” said Lane.

Lane believes open primaries give a large portion of Arizonans more control over who they can elect in future elections. The goal is to get their initiative on the ballots by 2024.

Beau Lane, Partner and Executive Chairman, LaneTerralever

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