Arizona Republican Party cancels 2020 presidential preference election

Illustration by Blake Fernandez

Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelly Ward formally notified Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobb’s office regarding the party’s intent to cancel the 2020 presidential preference election. This decision stems from an effort to bolster President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign.

The cancellation was made official Sept. 10 and was announced by the Republican Party in a statement on Twitter.

“Today, [Chairperson Ward] delivered a letter to Secretary Katie Hobbs’ office announcing the Republican Party of Arizona’s intent to opt out of the 2020 Presidential Preference Election,” the tweet stated.

Canceling the preference election will influence over 1.3 million Republican voters throughout Arizona, according to the state’s official website. With Trump favored for to win reelection, these Republicans will not have the chance to vote for other presidential candidates in the primary. However, Arizona’s 57 Republican delegates will still travel to the national Republican convention to nominate a candidate for president.

In the absence of the election, Ward’s letter to Hobbs states that Ward will personally nominate electors.

According to The Arizona Republic, the cancellation has been in the works since at least April. The Arizona GOP (Republican Party) is the fourth state party to cancel a presidential primary, following South Carolina, Nevada and Kansas.

Conservative political consultant Constantin Querard, the president for Grassroots Partners and the Arizona state director of Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign, spoke about the Republican Party’s motivation for the cancellation.

“It’s basically the same as it always is in this case,” Querard said. “We don’t waste money on a primary where there’s no question of who’s going to win. The goal is to take all of that time and resources and put it to something else.”

Querard added how the decision follows the standard for Arizona in recent presidential elections. Since the Clinton administration, both the Republican and Democratic parties have canceled their presidential preference elections when the incumbent president was up for reelection.

The political consultant said that Trump does not think the decision presents a great concern to Republican voters in Arizona. Querard noted that Trump would have a high likelihood of winning a clear majority of the vote, and that given Arizona’s status as a winner-take-all state, delegates would eventually go to Trump regardless.

Despite the beliefs of the Arizona GOP, there is controversy surrounding this situation. The decision to cancel the election has received criticism, especially given the circumstances of the primary. Trump currently faces three challengers from within his own party: former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, former United States Representative Joe Walsh of Illinois and former Governor of Massachusetts Bill Weld.

Junior Brock Schroeder, president of the Political Society of Northern Arizona University, shared his thoughts on the cancellation.

“I disagree with the cancellation, as I feel that it undercuts the democratic process,” Schroeder said. “This is a failing of the party to recognize the other potential candidates: Bill Weld or Joe Walsh.”

Schroeder said that canceling the primary prevents some Republican voters from voicing their opinions. In particular, this includes those with an unfavorable view of Trump.

“It also signals potential fears that the Trump campaign has in having a Republican primary, that being that he could lose,” Schroeder said.

Despite Schroeder’s criticism that the cancellation takes away choice from voters, he said the decision has potential strategic benefits for the GOP. He said the decision seeks to create unity in the party, discourage strong opposition to Trump and could help the GOP going into the general election.

“I think that this will allow for the entirety of the resources in the Republican Party to be used for their potential candidate,” Schroeder said. “This is an intelligent move, as it ensures that those who vote party lines will, by default, vote for Trump, ensuring a unified party that can stand up to the myriad of Democratic candidates.”

Dan Howle, executive director and chairman of the Independent Voter Project, said his organization is against the GOP’s ability to cancel the presidential preference election, finding it to be representative of broader issues in the election system.

“Our opinion is that political parties should not decide when and where elections are held,” Howle said. “Elections are for the voters.”

Howle said primaries act less like actual elections and more like large-scale recommendations, while the parties ultimately decide on their respective nominees. The cancellation of the preference election could hurt voter turnout in the Republican primary for other positions, such as statewide and local offices.

According to the Arizona Secretary of State’s elections schedule, the Democratic Presidential Preference Election will be held March 17, 2020, the regular Democratic and Republican primary elections Aug. 4, 2020 and the general election Nov. 3, 2020. Instructions for how to register to vote can be found on the Arizona Secretary of State’s website.

Even with the primary cancellations in Arizona and other states, Trump still faces dozens of primary elections and caucuses throughout the country.

Additionally, the current United States President will have to face the Democratic nominee on election day.