Arizona House votes to repeal Presidential Preference Elections

The Arizona House of Representatives voted Wednesday to repeal the state-funded version of the presidential primary.

House Speaker David Gowan of Sierra Vista sponsored the HB2567 bill that, if approved by the Senate and signed into law, would repeal Presidential Preference Elections.

For future Presidential Preference Elections, political parties would have to raise their own funds to cover the election costs. The bill would not go into effect until after the March election.

Currently, there are about 1.9 million registered voters in Arizona. Of those, 739,484 are registered Independents.

Only about 7,000 people in Maricopa County have changed their party preference for the Presidential Preference Election. A fairly even split between Republicans with 3,300 and Democrats with 3,777, and only 21 Independents changed their party affiliation to the Green Party.

Outside the Burton Barr Public Library in Phoenix David Handley is hoping to get signatures supporting an open primary. Currently in Arizona, Independent is not a recognized political party. In the upcoming Presidential Preference Election, Independents will not be eligible to vote.

“We all are voters. We all have a voice. We should be able to vote our conscience,” Handley said.

Independent voters must either change their party preference or not vote.

That notion doesn’t sit well with some Independents. Jacob Johnson, a registered Independent, will not be changing his affiliation to vote.

“You don’t always agree with what a party is doing so to be able to vote independently, gives us the right and ability to vote how we want to vote,” Johnson said. “I don’t believe I have ever affiliated myself with a party for the opportunity to vote.”

The Maricopa County Recorder’s Office hopes that Independent voters are aware that they must change affiliations. But Elizabeth Bartholomew, the communications manager with the Maricopa County Recorder, said, “We will still see some independents floating in not knowing this, thinking ‘Why can’t I vote?'”

And after the election, Bartholomew predicts that the majority will switch back their registration to “Independent.”

Handley urged people to sign his petition to get an open primary on the ballot. He said he’s averaging about 100 signatures a day and is confident they will get enough signatures.

“I’m doing this so not only I can vote my conscience but everyone here in the state of Arizona can vote for the best person and not a party,” Handley said. “And that’s the way it should be.”

The Presidential Preference Election will take place on March 22. In order to vote, Independents must switch their affiliation no later than February 22,2016. To change party affiliation, individuals can go to ServiceArizona.com or in person at the Maricopa County Recorders Office.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story wrongly identified the number of voters who have changed their party preference. The figures were for Maricopa County.