SIERRA VISTA — Concerned and confused Independent voters have been inundating the Cochise County Elections Office with calls this week after a postcard sent out by the Arizona Republican Party declared that they would only be able to vote in the March Presidential Preference Election if they register as Republicans.
The postcard, a copy of which was provided to the Herald/Review by Katie Howard, director of the county elections office, reads that “Only Republicans vote in the Presidential Preference.” On the reverse side, it goes on to read, “You are receiving this postcard because independent voters are not allowed to vote in the upcoming Republican Presidential Primary unless your registration is updated.”
The postcards appear to be conflating two separate elections: the Presidential Preference Election on March 22 and the Primary Election on Aug. 30. Further muddying the waters is that the message is both right and wrong, depending on which election it is referencing.
The Presidential Preference Election, for instance, is not a primary election.
“What the PPE election does do is that it indicates to the party delegates from the State of Arizona, which presidential candidate of their party the voters prefer to have that delegate cast their vote for at the party convention. Keep in mind though that sometimes a presidential candidate is no longer in the race by the time the Convention is held. In the case of Arizona delegates, this means that they can cast their vote for any remaining candidate of their party,” a notice from the county elections office reads.
It is true that Independent voters cannot vote in the Presidential Preference Election. According to the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office, “only voters registered with a participating political party may vote in the PPE.”
Only political parties recognized by the State of Arizona can participate in the Presidential Preference Election, though they are not required to.
Those on the permanent early voting list who are registered with a party participating in the Presidential Preference Election will receive an early ballot in the mail prior to the March 22 election.
The postcard is incorrect, however, when it states that Independent voters are not allowed to vote in the Republican Presidential Primary.
“Arizona has an open primary law that allows any voter who is registered as Independent to cast a ballot for one of the officially recognized political parties,” according to the Arizona Secretary of State’s website.
The postcard has resulted in a flurry of calls to the county elections office from concerned voters this week.
“Our phones have been ringing like crazy,” Howard said Friday. “Some Independents simply had forgotten, or maybe they moved to Arizona in the interim—they didn’t know they couldn’t vote in the Presidential Preference Election. Others want to know why they can only vote as Republican.”
While the first is true, she said, the second is not.