Arizona GOP may close primary to independents

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX (AP) -- The leader of the Arizona Republican Party plans to appoint a committee to look at the possibility of closing party primaries to independent voters.

The move comes as independents have become the largest voting bloc in the state and open primaries allow them to vote in the party primary they choose.

State party Chairman Robert Graham told the Arizona Capitol Times that he'll appoint the committee to study closing the primary after the November general election.

Many conservative members of the party believe allowing independents to vote diminishes the GOP's platform.

Independents accounted for more than 14 percent of the overall vote in August's primary, and 70 percent voted in the Republican primary.

Of all the Republican ballots cast, 16.2 percent were from independent voters, while independents only accounted for 11.7 of all the Democratic ballots.

Maricopa County Republican Party Chairman AJ LaFaro is among those who believe allowing independents to vote in GOP primaries waters down the influence of conservatives.

"The (party's) platform gets diminished when independent voters come to vote in the party's primaries," he said. "An individual who's an independent most likely doesn't share the conservative values that make up the platform of the Republican Party."

But Graham says he's not convinced that allowing independents to vote in GOP primaries hurts the party.

"I think it's quite the opposite," Graham said. "Some of the people that I know of that are giving sound bites aren't sitting in my chair. They don't receive the phone calls that I get from very conservative voters that have moved into an independent kind of space right now. These are high propensity voters, and these are the people we want to keep engaged, because they're slowly moving back to the party."

Graham said the committee would seek information from other states that closed their primaries in order to make a "scientific" decision.

A 2007 lawsuit backed the Libertarian Party's right to close its primary, and it remained closed until this year. That's when the party decided to re-open its primary to independents.

Arizona Democratic Party Chairman DJ Quinlan said his party will continue to encourage independent voters to participate in its primaries.

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Information from: Arizona Capitol Times, http://www.arizonacapitoltimes.com

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