Shockingly bad political reporting on voter registration in Arizona

ScreenshotArizona’s political reporters are all worked up in a lather today over the voter registration numbers released by Secretary of State Ken “Birther” Bennett on Monday: Independents now outnumber both Republicans and Democrats in Arizona. Oh Noes!

There is some shockingly bad political reporting today on this subject.

Howard Fischer’s report is seriously flawed analysis. Independents in Arizona now outnumber both Democrats and Republicans:

Independents now outnumber both Republicans and Democrats in Arizona as voters continue to abandon the two major parties.

But that actually could lead to further political polarization on both ends of the political spectrum, at least in the short term.

* * *

The numbers are no surprise, as more and more Arizonans are “disaffected” by the two major parties, said pollster Earl deBerge. Those who choose not to register with them want a more moderate path, he said.

But deBerge noted that independents just don’t vote when it really counts: in the primary.

So who’s left in the party — and who turns out — are the true die-hards.

“As the parties shrink … moderates move to the center and become independents,” deBerge said. That is happening with both parties.

“As that happens, there’s no doubt that the parties will become more ‘dogmatic’ by virtue of the fact that the people who are left are more dogmatic,” he said.

That’s also the contention of pollster and political consultant Bruce Merrill.

The people that stay in the parties are increasingly going to be more ideological,” he said. “It’s the people that are kind of disgusted with what’s going on with both the Democratic and Republican sides that leave the party.”

Did you catch Howie’s subtle manipulation of language to suggest that “Independent = Moderate,” and voters who are still registered with a political party are dogmatic die-hard partisans who are polarizing (you evil bastards!)

Howie and his band of pollsters are full of shit. There is a lot of good political science research to demonstrate that so-called “Independents” are in fact “Leaners” who vote in a partisan manner. I have posted about this subject several times. See, for example, Sorry media villagers, ‘independents’ are not are not nonpartisan or centrists:

Over the years I have posted about political science studies which demonstrate that “independent” voters are actually partisan “leaners.”

Data from the American National Election Study analyzed by political science professor Alan I. Abramowitz of Emory University showed that in 2008, independents made up 40 percent of eligible voters, but only 33 percent of those who actually voted. Only 7 percent of the total voted as true independents with no party preference. The other indies were clearly “leaners” for one party or the other. ‘Swing’ voters remain partisan – Chicago Tribune.

Don’t bother telling the media villagers this. They are committed to their “independent voters are nonpartisan” and “centrists” (or “moderates”) meme, the facts be damned.

So why does Howie treat his readers like mushrooms, keeping them in the dark and feeding them bullshit? Because he has an agenda to sell:

There is an alternative that could make independents more relevant: a top-two primary, where all candidates run against one another and all voters get to make their choices. Then the top vote-getters face off in the general election, even if it turns out that both are from the same party.

Voters had a chance to create such a system in 2012, but the measure was rejected.

Screenshot from 2014-03-18 12:40:34Do you know who else has an agenda to sell California’s new top-two primary system to Arizona? The Arizona Republic’s Laurie Roberts, who has dug her pom-poms out of the closet to cheer-lead for the top-two primary, again. Independents (could) rule Arizona:

When I launched Operation Dekookification in 2012 — the search for a Legislature that is actually representative of Arizona — I heard every sort of reason why Arizona’s one million independent voters are no-shows in the primary. Some don’t realize they can vote. Others are offended at having to choose between a Republican and Democratic ballot, or discouraged by the paucity of choices.

Some just assume they’ll automatically get a ballot because they’re on the permanent early-voting list, not realizing they have to reach out to the county election department and request either a Republican or Democratic ballot before every election.

That’s by design, by the way. The Republican and Democratic parties don’t want independents to vote in their primaries, so the system is set up to make it harder for them to participate.

Let me stop you right there, lady. Democrats want Independents (No Party Preference) to vote for Democrats because Democrats need them for their margin of victory.

It is only the Arizona Republican Party at its Winter State Committee meeting this  January that has voted for anti-democratic resolutions including a “Resolution Urging The Institution of Caucuses to Nominate Candidates for General Elections,” because “Republicans should nominate Republicans without the threat of outside interference.” In other words, the Arizona GOP is opposed to Arizona’s semi-closed primaries in which registered independents are allowed to vote. They want a caucus where only the GOP crazy base is allowed to vote to preserve the purity and sanctity of the “precious bodily fluids” of the Arizona GOP. In fact, the resolution calls for an amendment to the Arizona Constitution “to allow parties to nominate candidates for each partisan office by caucus.”

(A correction to your post is in order, Ms. Roberts.)

But wait, there’s more from Ms. Roberts:

Of course, it’s inevitable that things will have to change as the parties continue driving voters away.

Plans are already afoot to bring back a new, improved version of the top-two primary initiative in 2016. If that fails, I suspect it won’t be too long before a lawsuit is filed, challenging the use of taxpayer money to finance the elections in which the parties choose their nominees. Questioning whether such a subsidy constitutes unconstitutional gift of taxpayer money.

[Keen observers will notice that this is the “Kochtopus” Goldwater Institute line of attack on public employee unions, something Ms. Roberts also strongly favors.]

The largest bloc of those taxpayers, after all, have now spurned the parties.

They could change things in Arizona. They could, in short order, de-kook the Arizona Capitol, delivering us a Legislature that actually lines up with the people who live here. All they have to do is …

… Vote.

And therein lies the problem with all of the political reporting on this subject today. New Rule: Do not call them “Independents,” call them “Disengaged” voters. These are voters who have abandoned their civic duty to participate in the political process of democracy. Registering to vote as “No Party Preference” and only occasionally voting in the November general election when the spirit moves them is doing the absolute barest minimum. The majority of them do not even vote. Democracies die from neglect.

The media hand-wringing over “Independents” not participating in primary elections is also misplaced. Real change comes from an engaged citizenry participating in the political process between elections, doing the hard work of democracy:  registering voters, recruiting and training candidates, shaping party policies and platforms, etc. This can only be done from inside a political party — one has to participate to have any influence in a political party. If you are unwilling to do this hard work, then you should not be heard to complain about your choice of candidates in a primary election.

Instead of denigrating political parties, the media should be encouraging greater participation in political parties and reform movements of political parties. If Laurie Robert wants to “De-Kook” the Arizona GOP, then elect a large enough number of her “mythical moderate Republicans” to precinct committee person positions to take the party back from the Tea Party and the Christian Dominionists who actually did the hard work to take over the Arizona GOP in just this manner. There is no simple solution for slackers, Ms. Roberts.

Finally, the jury is still out on California’s’ top-two primary system, so stop promoting this radical notion as a panacea for what is actually a problem with lack of civic engagement by Arizona voters. Has California cured its political dysfunction? Not so fast.:

[T]he elections themselves were not quite as competitive as some have suggested. Four in every five races was decided by more than 10 points, and only three incumbents running for the legislature lost reelection.

The new primary system did change the rules, and 28 general-election contests featured the novelty of pitting two candidates of the same party against each other. But all but nine of the 153 winners in the general election would have made it out of the primary and won under the old rules.  And of the same-party races, fundraising, personality or geographic power bases might have explained more than “moderation.” One study found that voters could not even figure out which candidates were moderate and which were extreme, while another study found that the positions candidates took in the 2012 campaign were actually more polarized than before.

If  Arizonans really want to disempower the “Kochtopus” organizations like the Goldwater Institute and Americans For Prosperity, and to disempower Cathi Herrod and her Christian Taliban at the Center for Arizona Policy, there is really only one sure-fired way to accomplish this: elect more Democrats to the state legislature and statewide offices.

Democrats are not not beholden to these far-right fringe groups. These groups have no power over Democrats. Handing over the reins of Arizona government to the Democrats this November would immediately “moderate” our politics from our present far-right “meth lab of democracy” status among late night comedians.

It is the kind of shock-wave it will take for Laurie Roberts’ “mythical moderate Republicans” to get off their comfortable lazy asses and to do the hard work of taking back the Arizona Republican Party from the radical extremists. Everyone wins by electing more Democrats in November.

3 responses to “Shockingly bad political reporting on voter registration in Arizona

  1. Robert B. Winn

    So party members are unhappy with party propaganda about independent voters. Here, let’s just consider some facts. In 1988 all deputy registrars registered independent in Arizona were dismissed and declared ineligible to serve in that position because of a House bill signed into law by Gov. Rose Mofford stating that deputy registrars must be recommended by the chairman of a political party. In 1992 the position of deputy registrar was eliminated by a Senate bill signed into law by Gov. Fife Symington. Arizona became the state with the highest rate of independent voter registration in the nation.
    In 1998 Arizona voters approved an open primary initiative. State Attorney General Janet Napolitano immediately proposed to state legislators that if the Presidential Primary were moved to February leaving a primary for state offices in August, she could provide an opinion that independent voters could not vote in the Presidential Primary because it was not mentioned by name in the open primary initiative. For her creative party politics, Janet was rewarded by Republicans by being elected governor. In 2995 Janet signed into law a Senate bill removing the option to register independent from the Arizona voter registration form with the following effect on independent voter registration.

    2000-2005 107,715
    2002-2004 165,771
    2004-2006 26,384

    All any of this means is that it took a few more years for independent voters to outnumber Democrats in 2009 and Republicans in 2014. Nationwide, independent voters will outnumber all political party members in the United States by the end of this year. The two-party system is done here in the United States. Sorry to have to be the one to point this out to you.

  2. You beat me to it. I was going to point out the absurd conclusions by Howie and Kenny. The Dems I know who have become Independents in the past year year did so because the are disgusted with Blue Dog Dems like Barber and Sinena. They want Dems who have values, not Republican-lite Blue Dogs who only vote with re-election in mind. I think people are tired of Corporate People controlling the Corporate Democrats and Republicans. They don’t represent the 99%.

  3. Donna Gratehouse

    Excellent column, Meanie. Roberts has that “De-Kook” crap all over the place again so my guess is she intends to do what she did last time: Wait until June (after the filing deadline) to announce her new De-Kook the Capitol campaign, for which no candidates can actually be recruited. She will then proceed to designate certain Republicans who didn’t vote like total assholes a time or two as moderate “keepers” despite their overall horrid voting records and that they have a perfectly good moderate Democrat running against them.

    Arizona’s Most Useless Political Pundit.