Arizona Could See Open Primaries On The Ballot This November

ballot

Aoife Kane

A campaign aiming to open Arizona’s primary elections filed its petition to qualify for the November ballot on Wednesday after collecting over 560,000 signatures.

If passed, the state constitutional amendment would let Arizona voters participate in primaries regardless of their party affiliation.

That would let more than 1.3 million independent voters who aren’t registered as a Republican or Democrat vote on those parties’ presidential primaries.

The office of the Secretary of State has up to 20 business days to certify the petition, but only 383,923 valid signatures are required.

Even if voters approve the amendment in November, it would be up to the Legislature – which is controlled by the two parties – to decide the mechanics of how nominees are picked for a general election.

If passed, the amendment would take effect in time for the 2026 primaries.

Fifteen states have some form of an open primary of the sort proposed for Arizona. In some, the top two vote-getters move on to the general election, regardless of party. Alaska uses a top-four system with ranked-choice voting. Louisiana has a ‘jungle’ system where the candidate who receives a majority of the votes progresses.

RELATED STORY: Independents, with a lowercase i, are now Arizona’s biggest voter group 

Independents outnumbered registered Republicans and Democrats in Arizona in 2023.

Under the state’s current semi-closed primary – a system similar to that used in most states – voters can only cast a ballot in a presidential primary if they register with the party.

Independents can vote in U.S. House and Senate races in Arizona, and in state legislative elections, without registering by party.

“Arizona is searching for new ways to engage in the political process,” said Jacqueline Salit, president of Independent Voting, a national strategy center for voters unaffiliated with a party.

“No taxation without representation – some of these things are very fundamental to American’s conceptions of democracy,” she said.

Most elections are decided in the primaries, because districts are carefully drawn to favor one party or the other. That leaves independent voters with little voice, she said.

Chuck Coughlin, the political consultant running the campaign to open Arizona primaries, said the abortion rights ballot measure will likely boost turnout, and that could have spillover benefits for his cause.

Donors have poured $7.5 million into the effort so far and Coughlin says he has commitments for up to $4 million more. The group had $2 million on hand at the end of April, according to its most recent campaign finance report

“Put the best candidates on the ballot. Let everybody vote. … Every election, every candidate, every election. We think that that notion of fairness will work very well with the electorate,” he said.

The only organized opposition to emerge so far has come from Republicans in legislative district 17, north of Tucson, who filed as an organization opposed to the initiative.

The state’s Republican and Democratic parties did not respond to requests for comment.

“The parties are very powerful,” Salit said, adding concern about the way partisan lawmakers might implement it. “Should it be a top two, a top three, a top five? … It kicks it to the Legislature, which is of course controlled by the parties.”

Younger voters are historically disinterested in politics, said Thom Reilly, co-director of Arizona State University’s Center for an Independent and Sustainable Democracy. But despite their dissatisfaction with the current system, many are more engaged than in previous generations.

In June, the center released findings that 95% of people aged 20 to 30 support equal access to voting regardless of party affiliation.

“They’re rejecting the two parties” and view “open access and equal access as important issues,” Reilly said, predicting that measures on open primaries and reproductive rights will boost turnout among younger voters.

Carrie Sackett, an independent Arizona voter who signed the ballot initiative petition, called it a no-brainer.

“We might have different opinions on different issues,” said Sackett, a life coach in Phoenix, but for independents, “what unites us all is we feel like the two political parties are failing the American people.”

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11 Comments

  1. right now in AZ we get far left and far right
    nothing in middle(ie compromise)
    better than today – I had lifer pub say no
    I’m on the YES ballot

  2. And again, because this will sound so appealing and “fair” it will be passed by low information voters and then POOF there goes the state, the same way California and Alaska slid down into the abyss.

  3. That would let more than 1.3 million independent voters who aren’t registered as a Republican or Democrat vote on those parties’ presidential primaries.

    We’re becoming “South Africa” of the 60’s

  4. I’m not in favor of open primaries. Why should any political party want some other no affiliated person to choose their candidate. Libertarians won their lawsuit on this several years ago but this would change the decision.

  5. this is not needed. i’m registered “no party” and I requested and just got a republican primary ballot. so why is it being pushed?

  6. Vote NO on this garbage! I’m disgusted with the GOP however I want my ballot to say official ballot of the Republican Party! That way the true RINOS will be easier to get rid of!!!

  7. As an independent voter (as of age 19, July 1, 1971), my personal opinion to this open primary voting for everybody as to say, I’m not a fan. Let the Republican/Democrat/Libertarian/Green/Constitution (list goes on and on) parties govern themselves. If you don’t like what is happening with these political parties and or don’t agree with, so be it. If you want to make a difference to a political party, then join and do something. I decided to be an independent for own choice/decision to vote and not with independentvoting.org, Jacqueline Salit idea of “…American’s conceptions of democracy,” which is a red flag for me because this country is a constitutional “Republic”.

  8. Allowing Dems to vote in a Republican primary is a mistake and will mean more Democrat chosen RINOs on the ballot to lose to far left candidates.

  9. Voting is good! People should exercise their right! I just think it should be Americans voting, is all.

    • Open primaries is a tool for the uni-party to keep candidates who care for America off the election day ballots. It is so very plain to me, that the uni-party has to shut down anyone who they disagree with. The arena of exchanging ideas is anathema to them.

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