Despite common misconception, independent voters in Arizona can take to the polls or cast early ballots this primary election season.
About 10 days prior to the Aug. 26 primary, sample ballots will be mailed out to the registered voters’ households, giving them the opportunity to research candidates. If a voter is registered as independent, he or she will have the option on election day to select candidates that are affiliated with one of the major political parties – Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, or Green Party – that are participating in the primary.
This is often a point of confusion for voters, according to Brad Nelson, Pima County elections director.
“Some independents ask if they can pick one candidate from one party, and another candidate from another party, and the answer to that is no,” said Nelson. “You get to pick one party and one party only.”
Independent voters will, however, receive sample ballots for all candidates included in the primary election. Those registered as one of the political parties participating in the primary will only receive a sample ballot for their affiliated party. Independent voters who cast a vote in the primary will not become registered for the party in which they voted for, but will remain registered as independent.
Nelson said another gray area comes with voters who request an early ballot but do not use it.
“A lot of people who request an early ballot wait until very last minute, and then come in on election day and say they left their ballot behind, and ask if they can get another one,” said Nelson. “The answer is yes, but that slows down the process considerably because we have to make sure they didn’t inadvertently mail that ballot in, and are now trying to come in on election day and vote at the polls as well, so we have to hold that ballot in a provisional status.”
In the case of the 2012 presidential election, 50,000 Pima County voters had their votes held in provisional status due to such circumstances.
“The number one thing I want to stress is if you’ve got an early ballot, use it,” said Nelson.