PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - This may not be an election year, but some voters are switching political parties. In Arizona, Republicans have the largest number of registered voters, but more voters are switching or registering as Independents.
Politics in Arizona is a constant national focus with the state Senate election audit, politicians making headlines and President Joe Biden winning the traditionally red state in 2020.
Examining voter registration from the Secretary of State's Office shows some interesting trends. In the years between the 2016 and 2020 general elections, Democrats saw the biggest growth in registered voters, followed closely by Republicans. Independents also saw growth due in part to the Green Party losing recognition in Arizona.
In the six months following the general election, Democrats and Republicans both lost registered voters while Independents grew by tens of thousands.
Paul Bentz is senior vice president of Research and Strategy with HighGround, a political consulting firm. He says the good news is more people are registering to vote, but there is less party loyalty. Bentz believes the number of Republicans leaving the party may be connected to the Jan. 6 insurrection when rioters stormed the nation's Capitol.
"We saw a pretty significant exodus of Republicans leave the party to become Independents. I think that was a little bit of a wake-up call but we haven't seen that trend continue," says Bentz.
The political strategist points out both Republicans and Democrats are highly effective at registering voters through drives but there may be an issue facing Republicans. Individual Republicans may be damaging their party's appeal on the statewide level. Take, for example, Rep. Paul Gosar. Gosar's district is a Republican stronghold. While he may have a firm grasp on his office, his defense of Jan. 6 rioters and his links to white supremacists could turn Independents away from Republican candidates running for statewide office next year.
Republican support for the Senate's election audit and unfounded claims the election was stolen may also make the party less attractive to Independents.
Voter registration in Arizona is split three ways with Republicans holding a slight advantage which means attracting Independents is imperative for a candidate to win. Bentz says the GOP could have problems in next year's election if the party only appeals to their base. "Midterms in Arizona are heavily Republican, but they are going to be swimming upstream with Independents. When you look at things like the flat tax, the audit, and the behavior of some of our elected Republicans, those are not the type of issues that bring independents home," says Bentz.
Statewide voter registration data is reported to the Secretary of State's Office quarterly. With new data now coming in, we will see by the end of July if new trends are emerging.