Remarks by Armida Lopez, Director of Latino Outreach,
Open Primaries Arizona
Independent Voters for Arizona and Open Primaries Arizona
Press Conference - February 22, 2016
Hello everyone, my name is Armida Lopez. Thank you all for taking the time out of your busy schedules to come join us on this very special occasion.
I can’t think of a better day than George Washington’s birthday to discuss the importance of working towards a better democracy!
I am the Director of Latino Outreach for Open Primaries Arizona. We are part of a national movement dedicated to opening our political system so that the voters, not the parties, have the power. It sounds simple but it’s a fight! Partisanship is deeply, deeply ingrained, and nowhere is that more true than here in AZ.
I want to share with you what brought me to join this movement. My parents migrated to the US from Mexico to work in agriculture. It is rigorous physical labor, long hours, and little pay. My father spent 20 years of his life in the fields. He marched alongside one of the greatest community organizers in the history of the US, Cesar Chavez, to try and end injustice to farmworkers.
The cutting edge issue for my father’s generation—for the Cesar Chavez generation—was addressing our invisibility as a community and the blatant discrimination we faced. For me, for my generation, we have a different challenge. 50% of Latinos my age are registered as independents and we are considered second class citizens. We are told to adapt to a partisan political system that does not work, is not fair and that completely takes us for granted. In 2014, 50% of Latino voters in Arizona never received any outreach from a single candidate running for office! I joined the open primaries movement because I don’t want the work that my parent’s generation did to come to a screeching halt.
Nowhere in our election system in Arizona is the discrimination against independents more blatant than in the Presidential Preference elections, which is closed to independents. That means that close to 41% of Latino voters in our state cannot participate. That must change. We need all of our citizens to have equal access to voting. My community wants a fair opportunity to participate in shaping who our next President will be without being coerced into joining a political party.
And there is a real irony here. I am part of the Open and Honest Coalition bringing democracy reforms to the ballot this November so the voters can reshape our political process to make it more transparent, open and to treat all voters equally. However, as voters we cannot vote to change how the Presidential Preference election is conducted. That is left up to the very political parties that have locked us out. That is why we are here today. We call on the parties to open their Presidential primaries. If not, then surely these are not primaries that should be funded by the taxpayers.
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