Independents may vote in open primary for first time in Arizona<BR><BR>

Nearly 300,000 voters statewide who are registered as independents, including an estimated 26,000 in Mohave County, will be able to request partisan ballots for the first time ever with the open primary Sept.

12, state and county officials said.

Arizona voters approved the open primary by passing Proposition 103 in November 1998.

The ballot measure entitles voters who are not registered with any of the six "recognized" parties (Republican, Democrat, Green, Libertarian, Natural Law and Reform) to request ballots for any of those parties during the primary, according to state Elections Director Jessica Funkhouser.

"If you are with one of the recognized political parties, you vote the ballot of your party," Funkhouser said.

"But if you are a registered voter that is not a member of one of those six parties, then you can pick one ballot of one of the parties."

John Shinn, a Kingman resident who has been registered as an independent since he began voting in 1962, said he is not sure whether he will request a partisan ballot during the primary.

"I would rather see us get a chance to vote in both (Democratic and Republican) primaries)," said Shinn, a page at the Kingman branch of the county library.

"Let's say the Democrats have two and the Republicans have two candidates for supervisor positions.

Just to cover yourself, you vote for a Democrat who is the least of the evils, or vice versa.

I think there are national elections that went that way."

Shinn is a member of a growing voting block.

The number of registered independents in Arizona rose from 13.2 percent of the total voters during the general election in November 1996 to 14.5 percent, or 296,661 of the 2 million-plus voters as of March, Funkhouser said.

She said that the open primary was designed to increase voter participation.

"We are hoping that it will increase the turnout," County Recorder Joan McCall said.

"It seems to me that we have had a lot more requests" for early ballots from independents.

"Hopefully, those people who have always been excluded from the primary will go out and vote."

McCall estimated that independents account for 26,000 of the 81,000 county residents on the "active" voting rolls, which might make their numbers higher than the number of registered Democrats.

McCall estimated there are 33,000 Republicans and about 20,000 Democrats in Mohave County.

Independents and other voters who will participate in the partisan primary Sept.

12 will cast their ballots for candidates running for offices ranging from county offices to the U.S.

Senate.

The top vote-getters in challenged races will face their counterparts from the opposing parties during the general election on Nov.

7.

At the county level, candidates for both major parties are running for the District 1 and District 2 supervisor races, and independents are vying for all three supervisor seats.

However, independents will not appear on the Sept.

12 ballot and instead will show up on the Nov.

7 ballot.

No Democrats or independents are running for the other countywide offices: assessor, recorder, school superintendent, sheriff and treasurer.

For more information about registering to vote, call the voter registration division of the recorder's office at 753-0767.