There’s a growing movement to pry open Arizona’s presidential primaries to voters who register with small political groups or choose to stay independent of any party affiliation, just as the Legislature already has done for state and county elections since 2000.
It’s a movement that violates the First Amendment rights of Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians and could forever prevent another party from rising to prominence.
It would be too late for this year’s primary on Feb. 5, but lawmakers are expected to consider competing bills from Sen. Jack Harper, R-Surprise, and Rep. Mark DeSimone, D-Phoenix, to accommodate independents and minor-party voters who now make up nearly 30 percent of the electorate.
A federal judge already has ruled twice such action tramples on the fundamental right of a political party to pick nominees for general elections that reflect its values and beliefs without the risk of outsiders hijacking the process to promote another agenda.
The judge’s ruling applies only to the Libertarian Party because Republicans and Democrats have refused to stand up for their rights. But the underlying constitutional principle is relevant to every party that does the work of recruiting enough members and qualifying for state ballots.
Some people don’t like excluding certain voters when primaries have public funding. But government pays for lots of things we don’t like. The state never should have tried to correct this problem by infringing on the First Amendment.
Voters who want to be involved in primaries should join eligible parties or make the effort to qualify a new one. As the Libertarian Party has less than 18,000 members among more than 2.7 million eligible Arizona voters, we know it’s not that hard to do.