In previous years, local elections would kick off in the spring and conclude in the early summer. Council elections were also divorced from other ballots, meaning voters had one campaign on which to decide, be it for council members or local propositions.
This year, thanks to changes implemented by Arizona state legislators, almost all elections have been moved to November, meaning local elections are on the same ballot as national races.
Many voters, especially younger ones, assume their individual votes do not matter. Part of that stems from the somewhat screwy winner-take-all Electoral College to choose the president, which allowed Rutherford B. Hayes, Benjamin Harrison and George W. Bush to win the White House while losing the national popular vote in 1876, 1888 and 2000, respectively. All other elections except president are determined by popular vote, making all votes important.
Individual votes matter most importantly in small, local elections. State propositions are often won by a handful of votes. Proposition 203, Arizona’s medical marijuana law, for instance, initially appeared to have failed in 2010, but as late and provisional ballots were counted, won by 4,340 votes.
In March, the Arizona secretary of state announced that independent voters now comprise 34.88 percent of the electorate, outnumbering Republicans at 34.75 percent, Democrats at 29.54 percent, Libertarians at 0.82 percent and Americans Elect at 0.01 percent. The Green Party is no longer registered in Arizona due to having so few members.
In rural Northern Arizona, more Republicans run than Democrats, even for nonpartisan offices, meaning the primary election is a contentious, sometimes brutal fight for Republicans trying to earn their party’s nomination. For instance, there are six Republican gubernatorial candidates vying for the nomination to face a lone Democrat. The Republican nominee may come out swinging or be so drained of money and capital that working to win moderate independents may be a lost cause.
In contests with no Democrats or Libertarians on the ballot, the Republican primary is the de facto last election of the campaign, which is why it is vital for independent voters to vote in the primary election on Tuesday, Aug. 26, rather than just wait until Tuesday, Nov. 4. Independents can vote in whichever party’s primary they choose, helping ensure more moderate candidates willing to compromise get elected. Everyone suffers when government is paralyzed with gridlock, most especially our elderly, our children, our veterans and our poor.
Our Founding Fathers wanted American government to be a cacophonous collision of conflicting ideas. They never intended for the civil servants we elected to refuse to bend toward middle ground, so it is up to us to remind our candidate of the obligation with our use of the ballot box.
Every vote matters, which is why we will do our best to provide coverage for our readers so they can make an informed choice when determining who will lead our communities into the future.
Vote on Aug. 26.