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Want to vote in Arizona’s presidential primary? Here’s how independents can register

In World
February 06, 2024

Independents make up a third of Arizona’s registered voters.

January data from the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office shows there are 1.4 million of them across the Grand Canyon State, representing about 34% of the voting population.

But while independents can vote in most elections, there are exceptions. Voters not registered with a recognized political party can’t vote in the presidential preference election on March 19.

However, independent voters will be able to participate in the Aug. 6 state primary.

Here’s what to know.

What is a presidential preference election, and how is it different than a primary?

The election is called a “preference” election to convey that the results reflect voters’ preferences.

Unlike a primary, the actual winner of the preference election might not necessarily be the name listed on the fall general election ballot.

Ultimately, presidential nominees are picked by the party delegates at their political conventions, although the Arizona law notes delegates should make their “best efforts” to honor the winner of the preference election.

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Why can’t independents vote in the presidential preference election?

State and county officials run both the presidential preference election and primary election on the taxpayer’s dime on behalf of the state’s recognized political parties.Arizona statute prohibited independents from participating in either election until 1998, when voters passed a proposition allowing people not registered with a recognized political party to vote in “the primary.”

Attorney General Janet Napolitano later clarified in an opinion that the new open primary provision did not extend to presidential preference elections.

The parties or the state Legislature could opt to change that, but haven’t done so in the decades since.

I’m an independent, but I want to vote. What can I do?

If you’re an independent and wish to vote, you can change your party affiliation to become a Republican or Democrat, vote in a presidential preference election and then re-register as an independent.

But that takes some planning, and you’ll have to change your party affiliation before the voter registration deadline. For the presidential preference election, that date is Feb. 20.

How do I change my party affiliation?

You’ll need to reregister to vote.

You can register to vote online if you have an Arizona driver’s license or state ID. Otherwise, you’ll need to register with a paper voter registration form. You can return the form to your county recorder by mail or drop it off.

If you register with a paper form, you’ll see a section of the form that requires proof of citizenship.

The presidential preference election is considered a federal race, so you can vote in the election even if you do not submit proof of citizenship documents. However, you will be considered a “federal-only” voter and will not be able to vote a full ballot in the August primary election or November general election without updating your voter registration to include a photocopy of one of these documents:

  • Your Arizona driver’s license

  • Your Arizona non-operating identification card

  • Your birth certificate

  • The photo identification page of your U.S. passport or passport card

  • Your naturalization documents

  • Your alien registration number

  • Your U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs or tribal identification card

Arizona is the only state in the country that requires proof of citizenship in addition to a signed affidavit when you register to vote in state elections. You must be an American citizen to vote in all states, but most only require voters to sign an affidavit attesting that they are U.S. citizens under the penalty of perjury.

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I’m not sure if I’m registered with a party. How can I check?

You can check your registration status and party affiliation through My.Arizona.Vote.

To use the site, you’ll need to provide one of the following:

  • Your driver’s license number

  • Your tribal identification card number

  • The last four digits of your Social Security number

I’m an independent. How can I vote in the August primary?

Independents can participate in the August primary. But they must take an extra step to do so.

You must choose either a Republican ballot or a Democratic ballot. Even if you’re an independent on the Active Early Voting List, you won’t be automatically mailed a primary ballot unless you select a party.

To do so, contact your county recorder.

What’s the deadline for independents to decide which partisan ballot they want to vote?

For the Aug. 6 primary, independents voting by mail must select a Republican or Democratic ballot by July 26.

You can also vote in person on election day and request a partisan ballot of your choice at your polling site.

Still have questions?

The Republic wants to answer. Reach out at [email protected].

The Arizona Secretary of State’s Office provides contact information for election officials by county.

All voters can contact the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office at 1-877-THE-VOTE or 602-542-8683.

Sasha Hupka covers county government and election administration for The Arizona Republic. Do you have a tip to share on elections or voting? Reach her at [email protected]. Follow her on X, formerly Twitter: @SashaHupka. Follow her on Instagram or Threads: @sashahupkasnaps.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Can independents vote in primaries in Arizona? What to know

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