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Independent voters | Presidential Preference Election

LOCAL POLITICS—The Presidential Preference Election held on March 19 sparked some confusion, and voters registered as Independents were not allowed to vote. We have the answers.

On Tuesday, March 19, Arizona held a crucial Presidential Preference Election (PPE). Polling stations in all 17 counties were open from 6 am to 7 pm, providing registered voters with a unique opportunity to influence the selection of the Presidential Candidate directly. However, many voters needed clarification about the nature of the PPE, with some mistaking it for a Primary and others not recalling a standalone PPE before the General Election typically held in November.

So, what exactly was this Presidential Preference Election? The answer to this question is that the PPE was held as an indicator by Arizona registered voters of the participating political parties as to whom they, the voters, prefer as their party candidate for President on the General Election ballot in November. The participating political parties in this election were the Republican and Democratic parties only.

When voters came to the polling stations, they were required to show their identification to the ID Judge upon check-in. The Judge then issued the voter a ticket indicating to the Ballot Judge what ballot they should be given, either Republican or Democrat. After receiving their ballot, the voter moved to a booth to make their choice. The process concluded with the voter casting their ballot into a red ballot box as they exited the polling station. This process was simple enough until a registered independent voter came to cast her ballot. She was told her ballot was ineligible because she was registered as Independent in the voter database.

The election was only for registered Republican or Democrat voters, but she was told she could vote in the Primary held in July and the General Election in November. The voter seemed upset about this after arriving with her four children in tow and left agitated.

Mountain Daily Star received several calls from our readers and they asked reporters to look into the situation.

So, was it constitutional to exclude Independent voters from voting? Mountain Daily Star reporters reached out to the Navajo County Election Director, Rayleen Richards; Senator Wendy Rogers (R); the AZGOP Chair, Mrs. Swoboda; the AZDNC, the Secretary of State, Adrien Fontes and Walt Blackman LD7 candidate. Of those we reached out to, the Secretary of State, Adrien Fontes’ office and Walt Blackman replied. The explanation provided is as follows:

Per ARS 16-241(A) A qualified elector shall have the opportunity to express their preference for the presidential candidate of the political party indicated as their preference by the record of their registration. Independent candidates do not participate in the Presidential Preference Election, but instead file with our office to appear on the General Election ballot in November. Based on the specific language of the open primary provision of the Arizona Constitution and the statutes that implement it, as well as standard rules of Statutory construction, the open primary provision passed by the voters in 1998 Does not extend to presidential preference elections, See Attorney General Opinion No. 199-025 (R99-04*9).

A further explanation was offered by Walt Blackman, who is a candidate for the Arizona House of Representative for District 7. Blackman explained, “The restriction on Independent voters participating in the Presidential Preference Election in Arizona is based on state law. The rationale behind this restriction is to maintain the integrity of the political party’s nomination process. Political parties in Arizona have the option to choose whether or not to allow independent voters to participate in their primary elections. Some parties choose to allow Independent voters, while others do not.

The idea behind this is that political parties want to ensure that only committed members of their party have a say in selecting their presidential nominee. By limiting participation to registered party members, parties aim to prevent voters from other parties or with no party affiliation from potentially influencing the outcome of the election.”

It is worth noting that Independent voters can still participate in general elections, where they have the opportunity to vote for the presidential candidate of their choice,” Blackman continued.

Were Independent voters silenced? According to Arizona State Law, the answer is NO. 

Fontes office went on to explain, “that if voters are looking for a legislative change, we would suggest contacting your state legislator or referring to the initiative, referendum and recall process.”

House members: https://www.azleg.gov/memberroster/?body=H

Senate members: https://www.azleg.gov/MemberRoster/?body=S 

The Presidential Primary Results for Navajo County: 

Navajo County Presidential Preference Election Results.
Navajo County Presidential Preference Election Results.

The Presidential Preference Election unofficial results for Apache County

Apache County Unofficial Presidential Preference Election results.
Apache County Unofficial Presidential Preference Election results.

Kate Angelos, Reporter for Mountain Daily Star


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