Some Arizona election officials are worried many voters will miss their chance to cast a ballot in the state’s Feb. 3 presidential preference primary.
There hasn’t been a strong surge of people registering as Democrats, either as new voters or switching their affiliation from Republican and independent. A combination of state law and circumstances for this primary means only registered Democrats will be able to take part. And the deadline to sign up is midnight Monday.
Elections officials suspect at least some people are confused by a 5-yearold law that made it easier to vote in other Arizona primaries. The 1998 ballot initiative allowed independent voters and members of small parties to pick up a
Democrat or Republican ballot without changing their voter registration.
Political observers believe the change has helped to fuel recent growth in nonaffiliated registrations, and nearly one of four voters isn’t a member of any of the state’s three recognized parties.
But the initiative only applies to primaries for statewide and legislative offices, not the Feb. 3 presidential primary.
"If they truly want to participate, then they need to reregister," said Karen Osborne, elections director for Maricopa County. "If they want to keep their independent status, I can’t do both. They could change (back) after (the primary), if they want."
A change to national party rules is allowing Democrats to participate in the statesponsored presidential primary for the first time since it was established in 1995. Republicans aren’t taking part this time because they already know their candidate — President Bush.
Gov. Janet Napolitano moved the 2004 primary three weeks earlier in February to elevate the state’s influence on who will be the national Democratic nominee.
A recent political poll from Northern Arizona University showed former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean moving to the lead among the seven major candidates on the Arizona ballot. But a large number of registered Democrats hadn’t settled on a candidate, leaving the door open for several competitors.
Available registration numbers indicate there hasn’t been a strong interest among voters outside of Democratic loyalists to take part in the Feb. 3 primary. Registrations typically rise as an election year approaches, and figures through Oct. 1 from the secretary of state’s office show similar increases among Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians and independents.
There also doesn’t seem to be a move to switch parties. Osborne said that from Jan. 1 through Dec. 23, 5,727 voters in Maricopa County had changed to Democrat from some other affiliation. But 5,224 people had switched their registration to Republican in the same time period, Osborne said.
If you register
What: Voting in the Feb. 3 presidential preference primary.
Who: Only registered Democrats eligible to vote. Registration deadline: Must be postmarked by midnight Monday.
Where: Go to the nearest election office or Motor Vehicle Division office. Or go to http:// www.recorder.maricopa.gov/ regform.htm to download forms
Information: Call the Maricopa County Elections Office at (602) 506-1511, or the state elections office at (602) 542-4285.