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AZ Secretary of State Concerned for Future of State Elections, Political Climate

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Wednesday, March 1, 2023   

Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes said nonpartisan voters are and will become increasingly important for the Grand Canyon State, but he also worries about the state's political climate.

In a webinar, Fontes emphasized the idea of election denialism, or what he refers to as "emergent fascism," is an imminent threat to democratic institutions, subsequently leading to what he believes could be the surrender of the peaceful transfer of power.

Fontes argued he is taking an "assertive approach" to protect democracy, as well as instill trust and civic faith in Arizona's election system, by actively fighting mistrust.

"I am really worried that we've gone too easy on the election denialists in our conversations," Fontes remarked. "I am really worried that we haven't held their feet to the fire for the fascism that they are proposing and that they are trying to move forward with."

Fontes noted he is working with Sen. Ken Bennett, R-Prescott, the former Secretary of State, on a ballot images bill, aiming to fight mistrust. He added the law "promotes transparency in ways that make people uncomfortable," but feels it will lead to a more effective and less hyperpartisan government.

The webinar was hosted by Open Primaries, a nonprofit organization which believes no one should have to join a political party to vote. The group also supports open and nonpartisan primary systems.

Fontes stressed nonpartisan voters are crucial for a state like Arizona, and added he would not be surprised if they are the majority in the 2024 presidential election. Fontes pointed out other parties -- like the 'No Labels Party' and the 'Forward Party' -- are gaining notable traction in Arizona. He supports open primary proposals, but also wonders whether it is appropriate to change Arizona's electoral system.

"In Arizona, are we moving to a place with the rise of nonparty designated voters and then these incoming newer parties, are we in a space where the voters are actually doing that on their own without a change in the system?" Fontes asked.

Fontes is part of the organization Save Democracy Arizona and stated they are pushing for an open primaries initiative on the ballot. His role in the organization is to look at proposals and ensure they are implementable for the state's electoral law and for Arizona voters.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.


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