Democrats and Republicans take backseat to Independents

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- Arizona voters have spoken and the losers are the Republican and Democratic parties.

The largest political party in Arizona is no party at all, according to the latest voter registration numbers.

Secretary of State Ken Bennett released the new figures Monday showing "independent" voters are now the largest bloc in Arizona, out numbering Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians and Americans Elect.

For followers of Arizona politics the news should not be a surprise as voters have been turning their backs on the traditional parties for decades.

In making the announcement, Bennett said, "the rise of independent voters in Arizona mirrors national trends of voter registration."

Here is the number of voters broken down by party:

Independent – 1,134,243

Republican – 1,130,170

Democratic – 960,701

Libertarian – 26,595

Americans Elect – 332

Barrett Marson, a former Capitol reporter turned political consultant, says it’s hard to tell right now if the growing number of independent voters changes the state's political winners and losers.

"Independents either don’t understand or don’t care about voting in primary campaigns so candidates won’t necessarily target them," Marson said.

In Arizona, independents can vote in party primaries where many of the state’s political offices are decided because of the heavily gerrymandered districts. Historically, the independent bloc has stayed away from those contests, preferring to wait until the general election.

Asked to explain why voters are moving away from the parties, Marson said, "voters enjoy being free agents with an opportunity to assess any political party and not necessarily identify with one side of the other."