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Arizona Republic: Thinking about sitting out the election? Ask this first

Thinking about sitting out the primary election? Ask these 6 questions first
Posted on July 11, 2022 • Category: Op-Ed
By Sybil Francis, President & CEO, Center for the Future of Arizona

Your TV screen and mailbox are filling up with political ads, and candidate debates are getting crazy.

We are hearing much of the same tired mudslinging and wedge issues that are the hallmark of modern election campaigns.

You would think that Arizonans care about just one or two hot-button issues and are hopelessly divided and polarized. But are the candidates missing the mark? Do they represent your views? What will it take for them to get your vote?

Much more in common: New poll shows what Arizona voters agree on

These are the questions we at the Center for the Future of Arizona asked when we surveyed likely voters in the upcoming elections. The results formed the basis of the  Arizona Voters’ Agenda launched in early June.

What we found might surprise you. Voters agree on much more than they disagree about important issues facing our state, and they are not nearly as polarized as pundits would have you believe.

The 6 things voters most want to hear

Three polls we’ve commissioned over the past decade, the most recent this spring, show that Arizonans are generally pragmatic, not dogmatic; and they want solutions to Arizona’s challenges, not soundbites.

Our survey also put in stark relief the enormous gap between what’s important to voters and what candidates are talking about.

Where do they stand? Governor candidates on education, border, more

Over the past month, we rolled out the findings from our survey of likely voters. Here’s what voters want candidates to address as they compete for their votes and what political reporters should be asking about:

  1. What is your plan to ensure Arizona students have quality teachers and principals?
  2. What do you think the state should do with the growing budget surplus? (Spoiler alert: voters prioritize funding for education, public safety and infrastructure over tax cuts.)
  3. What should Arizona do to protect our water future and secure our long-term water supplies?
  4. What sustainable practices should continue and be implemented to protect Arizona’s air, land and water, and foster a high quality of life for all?
  5. What should Arizona do to keep our elections secure while preventing barriers to participation? (Spoiler alert: Arizona voters like early in-person voting and want to continue to have the option to mail their ballots.)
  6. How do you define a functioning border for commerce, and what is your vision for immigration reform? (Another spoiler alert: building a wall isn’t a priority for voters; comprehensive immigration reform is).

Two-thirds are interested in policy, not ideology

Imagine an election season in which candidates spoke to these issues, and presented competing, concrete plans for making Arizona a better place. Wouldn’t that be a refreshing change from what candidates are serving up these days?

Our survey found that 38% of voters will choose candidates based on their position on the issues and 27% based on whether they have clear plans or solutions. That’s two-thirds of the voters who are more interested in policy than ideology.

So why aren’t candidates listening? Why aren’t they giving likely voters what they want?

Some argue that a faulty primary system is the root cause of tone-deaf candidates and lopsided election outcomes that don’t represent the views of the majority of Arizonans.

Whatever the reason, there is no doubt that your vote makes a difference and that voting in the primary is critically important to the outcomes of our elections.

Registered independent? Don't sit out the primary

Early voting is underway for the Aug. 2 primary election, which, if history repeats itself, will have a low turnout dominated by the most dedicated voters in each party who are not representative of the general electorate.

Independents generally sit out primaries, letting others determine who they’ll choose to compete in the November general election.

Don’t kid yourself that you can skip the primary because you think it is not where the action is in determining Arizona’s future.

How to vote: Everything to know about voting in primary elections

It is.

Show up for election day. Independents, you don’t need to be excluded; you have the same right to vote in a primary as anyone else.

You just have to request an early ballot by July 22. Or you can vote in person.

Don’t let the candidates escape into soundbites and talking points. Hold them accountable to define and explain their positions on the issues that matter to Arizonans. This is the path to achieving The Arizona We Want.

Sybil Francis is president and CEO of Center for the Future of Arizona, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that brings Arizonans together to create a stronger and brighter future for our state.