Republicans may try to block independents from participating in future party primaries after their turnout in last month’s election — close to one vote out of every seven — may have affected some races. A.J. LaFaro, chairman of the Maricopa County Republican Committee, said he wants the party’s lawyers to find ways around the 1998 voter-approved measure which allows independents to participate in choosing the nominees of any recognized party. He said independents who may not believe in the party’s “conservative values’ are affecting who ultimately runs under the GOP banner. Carolyn Cox, his Pima County counterpart, said she agrees that independents may be having an unwanted influence on GOP politics. “I just think it’s kind of unfortunate when people who are not in the party are selecting who the party is going to have as a candidate,’ she said. The state party isn’t quite ready to make the push toward closing the primary — yet.
Spokesman Tim Sifert said that has been because, until now, there weren’t enough independents voting to really make a difference. But he said the party is taking a closer look at what happened last month with 16 percent of all Republican ballots cast by those not registered with the party. “If trends are changing, we’ll certainly by advocating for appropriate reforms to protect the rights of Republican voters,’ he said.
One option for the GOP to shut out independents is a lawsuit, just as the Arizona Libertarian Party won a ruling a decade ago blocking independents from affecting its primary. That party, however, has since relented and now encourages independent participation.
But LaFaro said it might require actually going to the ballot in 2016 to rescind or alter the 1998 voter-approved constitutional amendment which empowered independents to affect primaries.