Today, March 22, 2016, is Arizona’s Presidential Preference Election (PPE). That means a number of folks who didn’t mail in their early ballots will need to visit one of numerous polling places across the State of Arizona to cast their ballot – u-n-l-e-s-s they are registered as Independent voters.
Onyx, my furry four-legged Portuguese terrier, and I encountered a few of these Independents this morning during our regular exercise routine that normally begins with walking. Once we reach a local church that is about one mile from my doorstep, we shift to jogging. The church also serves as a regular polling site for city, county, and state elections.
Today, lots of Arizona voters will vote their conscience on who they think should be president for each registered political party. I’ve been on the permanent early voter list for years and mailed my ballot in last week. Onyx and I were both happy that we didn’t have to stand in line with a crowd of people that led out of the building, down the sidewalk, through the parking lot, and around the wall to the main street. We met a few Independent voters who were unaware that state law only allows those registered with a participating political party to vote in PPEs. Regrettably, some of these folks had stood in line for up to an hour only to be told that they were not eligible to vote in today’s election.
The above scenario becomes more interesting as Independent voters continue to rise in numbers in Arizona and across the country. The Arizona Secretary of State reports the following registered voter statistics for March 2016:
Political Party / Number of Registered Voters
Today, Independents account for 37% of Arizona’s registered voters. A year ago, the Arizona Republic [Ref 1] reported that Independents edged past Republicans in early 2015 to form the largest percentage of voters, at 34.88 percent, according to figures released by then Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett. Voters registered without an organized party surpassed Democrats two years earlier.
Additional data from the Office of the Secretary of State show the following voter registration trends:
Turned off by the partisan wars in Washington, 39 percent of U.S. voters now identify themselves as Independent rather than affiliated with one of the two major political parties, according to a 2014 analysis by the Pew Research Center.
This will be important to monitor in years to come because many of these Independents who don’t have a say in which candidates make it to the general election ballot in November will be the very ones that will help decide who wins the 2016 presidential election.
And that, my friends, is very important for business and STEM.
- Independent voters biggest voting bloc in Arizona, by Mary Jo Pitzl for The Arizona Republic, March 24, 2014, http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/2014/03/17/arizona-voter-registration-independents/6526385/