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Independents make up a significant portion of the electorate and, as a result, need to have their voice heard. Nearly a third of all Arizona voters are registered as independents. Unfortunately, many states leave independents out of the candidate selection process.

Rules differ from state to state when it comes to the process of caucuses and primaries. According to Fair Vote, a voting and democracy research center, almost half of the states have closed caucuses and primaries. This means that only voters with a party affiliation can take part.

The expansion of open primaries would allow more people to have their voices heard. Open primaries allow voters of any affiliation to take part in a primary for any party.

Under this system, candidates have an incentive to attract a broad spectrum of moderates.

Closed primaries turn out only the most devoted and radical voters in each party’s base. According to Time, closed caucuses and closed primaries “mean that only a small — and ideologically extreme — fraction of the state’s voters take part.”

When only the most extreme voters take part, only the most extreme candidates make it past the primary.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is feeling the heat right now from former Rep. J.D. Hayworth. McCain may be a conservative to the general public’s eyes, but when put up against Hayworth, he seems reasonable.

Hayworth has blasted McCain on his moderate stances, most notably his stance on immigration. In 2006, he voted in favor of giving illegal immigrants a route to citizenship.

“It is about time you represent ‘we the people of the Unites States’ and your Arizona constituents instead of illegal invaders and criminal trespassers,” Hayworth said of McCain on Hayworth’s radio show.

Some on the far right have rallied around Hayworth and his critiques of McCain’s moderate views.

To ensure that a moderate candidate who will do what is in the nation’s best interest and appeals to the general public, independents need to turn out and participate in primaries.

To reduce partisanship, it is important that independents have their voices heard.

Independents are allowed to turn out in Arizona for this year’s primaries, though sometimes these voters do not realize it. This bloc of voters should relish in their influence. Droves of independent voters would cause a more balanced state Legislature and more moderate candidates.

When independent voters do not turn out in primaries, bipartisanship is next to impossible. Candidates who represent the extremes try to govern in an effective manner. Unfortunately, they must please their party’s base to stay in office and not do what is best for the general welfare.

The result is not pretty, as Washington has shown us. The minority party is in lock-step opposition and the majority party to take a stand on any major issue.

All of this has the potential to change with the expansion of open primaries and the turnout of independents. Let brainwashing rhetoric cease and policy debates begin. Candidates need to be evaluated on their platforms, not on their party label.

In this coming election cycle, independents hold the power. They hold the key to the dynamics of our state’s politics.

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