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Arizona's Independent Voters Claim They're Treated Like Second-Class Citizens
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Arizona's Independent Voters Claim They're Treated Like Second-Class Citizens

Politics

Arizona's Independent Voters Claim They're Treated Like Second-Class Citizens

Arizona's Independent Voters Claim They're Treated Like Second-Class Citizens
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Voters who aren't part of any political party make up the biggest chunk of the electorate in Arizona. But they don't have many rights and they're trying to change that through grassroots pressure.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In Arizona, some of the voters who declined to join a party now talk of joining with each other. Here's Jude Joffe-Block of KJZZ in Phoenix.

JUDE JOFFE-BLOCK, BYLINE: It may sound kind of like an oxymoron, but Arizona's unaffiliated independent voters are organizing themselves and banding together.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PATRICK MCWHORTER: You are joining thousands of independent voters all over Arizona for this evening's town hall.

JOFFE-BLOCK: Last month, Patrick McWhorter of the group Open Primaries led this phone conference about initiatives his group is trying to put on the November ballot. One would make a single primary for all voters, and every candidate would appear on the same ballot regardless of party. Organizers say more than 13,000 people dialed into the call.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MCWHORTER: Independent voters, now 37 percent of all Arizona registered voters, are treated like second-class citizens.

JOFFE-BLOCK: One example, Arizona's independent voters can't participate in the March 22 presidential primary unless they've already reregistered with a party.

TIMOTHY CASTRO: This doesn't make sense in America that you have to choose a party line to vote for the most important office in the land.

JOFFE-BLOCK: That's Timothy Castro. He directs Independents for Arizona. It's another campaign for additional rights for unaffiliated voters. He argues it's not fair to exclude over a million independent voters from a presidential primary paid for with their taxpayer dollars.

CASTRO: If we're paying for something that we're not allowed to vote, then let us vote in it, or don't make me pay for it.

JOFFE-BLOCK: But, Castro may have more luck getting out of paying for the primary rather than actually voting in it. There's a bill making its way through the Arizona legislature that would make political parties and not taxpayers pick up the tab for presidential primaries starting in 2020. If the bill succeeds, independent voters will have to keep pushing to find a way into future presidential primaries here. For NPR News, I'm Jude Joffe-Block in Phoenix.

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