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Arizona Ballot Proposition 121 - Open Elections aka, Top Two

November 3, 2012 - 5:09am
Jim Iannuzo by Jim Iannuzo

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A NO VOTE is Recommended on Prop 121! CREATING AN OPEN PRIMARY GIVING ALL QUALIFIED VOTERS THE RIGHT TO VOTE FOR THE CANDIDATES OF THEIR CHOICE, PROPOSING AN AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION OF ARIZONA; AMENDING ARTICLE VII OF THE CONSTITUTION OF ARIZONA RELATING TO DIRECT PRIMARY ELECTION LAW. THIS WILL APPLY TO ALL LOCAL, COUNTY, STATE AND FEDERAL ELECTIONS EXCEPT PRESIDENT.



This initiative was introduced by the Open Government Committee. Their stated goal is to better represent independent voters by allowing independents to participate in primary elections. This is misleading as independents can currently participate in party primary elections unless closed by the individual political parties. As of today, all Arizona party primaries are open to independents.

An understated goal of this committee is to elect incumbent centrist candidates to political office especially the state legislature. Proposition 121 has attracted the support of government unions, and other special interests that benefit from increased spending. These groups will be able to better “invest” in a candidate they can politically manipulate. Under a Top Two system, incumbent candidates have better name recognition during the open primary, thereby eliminating all but one challenger.

California recently passed a Top Two initiative that became effective in 2012. Before the Top Two system was in place, 125 third party and independent candidates ran for office in the 2010 California general election. This year after the Top Two implementation just 4 independent and third party candidates will be in the 2012 California general election.


Voter turnout was down in 2012 California primary even though supporters claim Top Two would increase turnout. Voter apathy increases under Top Two as there are fewer choices.


Louisiana also has a top 2 system. In 1990, during his term as a state senator, William Jefferson ran in the jungle primary for Louisiana's 2nd congressional district seat. This was to fill a retiring incumbent seat. He finished first in the seven-candidate field with 24 percent of the vote. After being re-elected five times, Congressman William Jefferson’s offices were raided by the FBI in May 2006 on suspected bribery charges (cash in the refrigerator). Under the Top Two system Jefferson won re-election once again in 2006 to Congress by splitting the vote during the jungle primary. Even the cold hard cash couldn’t prevent an incumbent from winning under Top Two.
Analysis of Arizona Proposition 121

Good:
• Eliminates tax payer funded party primaries. Parties should fund their internal operations.
• Attention is now being given to a bad election system that favors two party rule.

Bad:
• Allows only two choices in the General Election. Normally the incumbent and a challenger.
• Suppresses opinions and ideas by removing candidates from the general election debates.
• Increases signature requirements for third party candidates.
• Protects Incumbents by eliminating challengers on the left and right.
• Allows any candidate to call themselves Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green, etc. essentially mudding the water so no voter can figure out what any of this means.
• Replaces party primaries with a jungle primary.

Mapping Top Two vs. The Current AZ Party Based Primaries
• Candidates 1, 2 & 5 are Democrats. Primary winner is 1.
• Candidates 3 & 7 are Libertarians. Primary winner is 3.
• Candidates 3, 4 & 6 are Republicans. Primary Winner is 6.
• Candidate 9 is an Independent. Advances automatically.

Arizona Current Primary System
 

In the party primaries 1, 3, 6 along with 9 advance to the general election. Four different choices.


Proposition 121 acts as a filter eliminating candidates considered “extreme”. Someone who favored low taxes or more taxes would be eliminated in the primary leaving two “mushy” candidates for the general election. These two candidates would take few positions, preferring a general response to all questions. Voters have a difficult time figuring out what the two candidates are all about.


If proposition 121 is approved, all candidates run in a common jungle primary with the most likely result being the incumbent advances to the general election against a centrist challenger. Politics enters into the equation since special interests back each candidate. Both are acceptable to the special interest group. Voter turnout is suppressed with only two milk toast choices. Essentially one choice.

Top Two System

Top Two allows candidates 5 and 6 advancing to the general election. Two similar choices.



Related Content:

Arizona Election Bill HB2305 Introduced to Kill Third Parties - Jim Iannuzo
Phoenix Offers No Reason For CityNorth Appeal - Jim Iannuzo
The 14th Amendment is Going to Cage Us All - Ross Kenyon


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Show Date Oct 12, 2014
Topic Incrementalism


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