Sunday, February 4, 2007

Black Independent Voter Network

Black Independent Voter Network

I would like to add a white perspective to this idea. I was raised and educated Republican in Montana, but never liked that political party. While I was in high school, I read George Washington's assessment of political parties, given in his farewell address, and decided I was an independent. When I was old enough to register to vote, I registered independent. In 1980 I moved to Arizona. Shortly thereafter, an article appeared in The Arizona Republic newspaper depicting independent voters as "the least informed and least interested portion of the electorate".
Sensing that something was afoot, I went to the office of the Secretary of State and registered as an independent candidate for the U.S. Senate against the incumbent, John McCain. I learned that as an independent candidate I was required to obtain 10,000 nomination petition signatures to get on the ballot. Furthermore, I could not collect any signatures before the party primaries in September, after which I had two weeks to get the signatures. A major party candidate had two years to get about 4,000 signatures to get on the ballot. I decided to concentrate on registering voters.
Arizona law provided that a candidate for office could apply the County Recorders for appointment of temporary deputy registrars for his campaign. My request for appointment of deputy registrars was met with a refusal on the basis that the Secretary of State had informed the County Recorder that I was not really a candidate for office. I contacted an independent candidate for governor and learned that her request for temporary deputy registrars had been approved, and she could appoint 50 deputy registrars in Maricopa County. She was having trouble finding people who wanted to do it. I was appointed a temporary deputy registrar for her campaign.
I went to Mesa Community College and obtained permission to register voters on campus. We set up a table with several deputy registrars and registered voters for three days. There was a continual line of people at our table for the entire time we were there, notwithstanding the fact that any student could go to the administration office of the college and register to vote there. We registered several thousand people to vote. I did this out of curiosity more than any other reason, since I had already decided that trying to get 10,000 nomination petition signatures was impossible, especially since the deadline for voter registration fell three days into the time independent candidates were given to get the signatures.
The candidate for governor gave it her best effort and obtained about 2,500 signatures.
After the election I received a letter from the County Recorder offering me a position as permanent deputy registrar since I had already received the training to be a deputy registrar. I accepted the position.
In 1988 I received a letter from the County Recorder informing me that on the orders of the County Attorney, all deputy registrars who were registered independent were to be dismissed. I learned that the state legislature had passed a law requiring that all deputy registrars be recommended by the chairman of a political party.
An independent voter filed a lawsuit seeking re-instatement of independent deputy registrars. The legislature met and passed a bill doing away with the position of deputy registrar to nullify the lawsuit, which the state was about to lose in federal court.
This made it possible for anyone in the state to register voters, including illegal aliens and convicted felons, people who could not register to vote themselves.
The political parties waited several years. Then leaders of the Republican Party drew up an initiative which they circulated to the voters concerning the terrible problem of illegal aliens and convicted felons registering to vote. Something had to be done. The proposition received enough signatures to pass and was sent to the state legislature. The legislature was required to make out a new voter registration form. One change was made on the form. Other than that the propositon required two forms of ID to be presented at the polls for voting. The one change on the voter registration form was removal of the option to register as an independent voter. The box marked No Party Preference was removed leaving only a box marked Specify Party Preference.
A party spokesman now on the state committee of his party boasted that the rapid 7% increase in independent voters in the state of Arizona had been stopped by a new voter registration form. People were now registering as Democrats and Republicans, he said.
I bring this matter to the attention of black people because they have had more experience in this sort of political party activity than white people like me have had. I know that a large percentage of the people who were registering independent in Arizona before the change in the voter registration form were black people. I would be interested in any suggestions you might have about how to proceed concerning this matter.
Arizona is a good place to start for an independent movement. Their election laws are obviously un-Constitutional, and we have caught them red-handed twice taking action to dis-enfranchise independent voters.

Robert B. Winn


N. Hanks said...

Robert - I posted an edited version of your email about the Arizona voter registration form, and there was a post today about the same issue in Iowa.

Give me a call at 646-567-6641 if you'd like to talk about national strategy.


efrench said...

Hi Robert, Although this post was posted over a year ago, I stumbled upon it through a Google search and I still find the issues it addresses to be incredibly relevant, not only to independent voters, but to third political parties as well. As a (albeit recently since I turned 18 in May) registered Green, I know very much the frustration of candidates not having access to the ballot for lack of signatures. And, I have heard stories of court officials not registering voters with third parties, even though it is clearly possible in Arizona. Many of the same facts and issues of deceit and illegality clearly apply to independents. Thanks so much for your insight, and for writing a very intriguing and important post!

-- Emerson French

Anna said...

Hi Robert,

I'm a journalist currently working on a story about independent voters in Arizona. I would love the chance to interview you and learn more about your thoughts on being an Independent in AZ and your political motivations.

If you'd be willing, please contact me at anna (dot) consie @ gmail (dot) com.

Thank you,