PHOENIX — A group of political independents is making a last-ditch effort to give them a voice in Arizona’s presidential preference primary.

Cathy Stewart, national vice president of Independentvoting.org, said Monday that state lawmakers are half right in objecting to the fact that all Arizonans pay for the quadrennial event even though more than a third of those registered to vote cannot participate.

The state House voted 37-22 earlier this month to wipe out the primary after this year’s March 22 event. That will leave it up to each party to decide how it wants to choose delegates to the national convention.

And that could be anything from party caucuses to privately run primaries and even, if the parties want, letting party leaders make that decision.

But Stewart said there’s a better idea: Keep the primary but let independents participate.

She noted there are more than 1.2 million independents in this state, making up close to 37 percent of all registered voters. By contrast, there are just slightly more than 1.1 million Republicans and fewer than 920,000 Democrats.

So her solution is to keep the primary — and the state funding — and just open the doors to everyone.

“We don’t think it’s right for private organizations to use taxpayer dollars to fund an election that excludes 50 percent of young people who are registered,” Stewart said.

That’s the same argument being made by Secretary of State Michele Reagan. But she supports HB 2567 to wipe out the state-run primary entirely rather than open it up.

There is an alternative for independents — or, at least, there was one: Reregister with one of the major parties. The deadline for doing that for the March 22 event, however, was Monday.

Stewart, however, said that’s not an answer.

“That’s the exact point independents are making,” she said. “They don’t want to join a political party in order to be able to exercise their fundamental democratic right to vote. Independents view that as a form of coercion.”

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