Arizona Top-Two Primary Initiative, Proposition 121 (2012)
|"Open Government Act"|
|Referred by:||Arizona Open Government Coalition|
|Topic:||Administration of government|
|Status:||On the ballot|
- 1 Text of the measure
- 2 Support
- 3 Opposition
- 4 Media endorsments
- 5 Lawsuits
- 6 Polls
- 7 Path to the ballot
- 8 See also
- 9 External links
- 10 Additional reading
- 11 References
The measure would implement a top-two style open primary system. In a top-two open primary, candidates for a government position run on the same primary ballot regardless of party affiliation. All registered voters are then able to cast their vote for the candidate of their choice. The two candidates with the most votes are then placed on the November general election ballot, regardless of party affiliation. The proposal was introduced by former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson.
Text of the measure
The short title of the measure reads as follows:
|“||This measure will allow all Arizonans, regardless of party affiliation, to vote in a single open primary for the candidates of their choice. The two candidates who receive the most votes in the primary will compete in the general election. There will be a level playing field for all voters and candidates, and the current system of taxpayer-funded partisan primaries will be abolished. This reform will promote open government and encourage the election of candidates who will work together for the good of the state.||”|
- The Arizona Open Government Coalition is the group behind the measure.
- The group is led by former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson.
- Former Mayor Paul Johnson stated: "The greatest incentive politicians have is to be elected. Too many politicians seeking to win their partisan primary simply do so by demonizing the other party. But under Prop. 121, politicians would have to face all voters. This creates an incentive to reach out to all voters, and work together regardless of party once they are elected."
- According to Johnson the initiative “is about trying to change the outcomes so that we end up with a more reasoned debate and more people are included in the process."
- According to the "State of Arizona Registration Report", about a third of state residents are not registered with either the Democratic or Republican party. There are now more independents in the state than Democrats.
- Thomas Franz, president and CEO of Greater Phoenix Leadership stated: "We believe in representative democracy, we believe that every voice is important to be heard"
- In column by Mark B. Evans, Editor of TucsonCitizen.com: ..."They should vote for it because it strips the political parties of their power and puts it back in the hands of the voters."
- Al Bell of Peoria Wrote: “Opponents say the current system works fine. The political parties agree. Yet, over a third of our voters are at a serious disadvantage. These growing ranks of voters are leaving the parties in frustration at the dominance of ideology over negotiation in solving our real problems. Citizens want resolution that can last instead of stalemate. Opponents say independents already have primary voting rights. Yes, if they are willing to temporarily identify with a “recognized” political party. This requirement essentially holds independents hostage to the parties, certainly a strange form of "rights".”
- Jim Morrison of Scottsdale wrote: “If this initiative passes, it will change our voting system from one controlled by political bosses and lobbyists to one that gives every eligible voter a voice.”
- Kevin Johnston of Gilbert wrote: "It will change the voting system from one based on the political parties to a system based on the voter…I expect we would see a change from the current climate of pandering to the factional extremes to win party nomination, then shifting to moderation in the general elections.”
- Arizona Chamber of Commerce neither endorsed or opposed Proposition 121. "The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry today announced that it has endorsed four propositions that will appear on the November ballot. The Chamber opposes another measure, the Quality Education and Jobs initiative, whose ballot status will soon be decided." Proposition 121 is not listed.
The following are arguments that were submitted to the Arizona Secretary of State for the state voter guide. You can read more arguments here:
- "Statement: Like much of the nation, Tucson Hispanic Chamber members have been discouraged by the divisiveness of our local, state and federal politics. We believe the Open Elections initiative will provide more opportunities for moderate pro-business candidates within any party. It should encourage a more civil tone to Arizona politics and less conflict over ideological differences."
Submitted by Lea Marquez Peterson, President & CEO, Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Tannya Gaxiola, Chairwoman, Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
- "I have lived in Tucson for more than 50 years. Arizona is a great state with wonderful people. But I am increasingly disillusioned by public officials, who primarily seem to represent the narrow interests of the base of their political party . Politicians are caught in a political system that encourages partisanship over cooperation. The desire to achieve consensus and the willingness to compromise are traits looked down upon by many elected officials. This conflict-driven atmosphere starts with our partisan "invitation only" primary system - where only a small minority of people bother to vote. Independents, which make up about one third of the state, are just about left out of the primary system and find it difficult to run for office. The Open Elections Initiative is a "game changer" . The basic concept has already been adopted in Washington and California. The new system does away with partisan primaries and requires all candidates to run together - meaning everyone is allowed to vote, even Independents. The two candidates with the most votes then face each other in a runoff election. All the candidates run together and all the people get to vote. The candidates will have to campaign and communicate with all the voters, not just the members of their own party. This Initiative will lead to meaningful and lasting election reform and better government."
Submitted by S. L. Schorr, resident of Tucson, Arizona.
- The main opposition to the measure is the group Save Our Vote.
- The group is being led by Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery.
- Arizona Governor Jan Brewer stated her opposition to the measure.
- On June 7, 2012, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce’s public policy committee voted to recommend that the full chamber board oppose the measure.
- According to Arizona Republic columnist Robert Robb, in a column published on July 11, 2012, "...the two-top primary will probably prove another disappointing attempt to change election outcomes by changing the rules. There's really no substitute for better candidates running better campaigns."
- In column by Clint Bolick of the Goldwater Institute, Bolick stated, "...because Arizona is a conservative state, the net result will be to move our state to the left. At a time when our state’s sovereignty is all that stands between us and an ever-growing federal government, we can ill afford a system designed to sabotage our freedom spirit. Proposition 121 is complex. Please take time to explain it to your friends who may be taken in by the benign-sounding rhetoric being used by its supporters."
- Governor Jan Brewer stated, "This measure is an attack on Arizona’s political parties and an attack on our election process itself. Most disturbing, it threatens to create new opportunities for `sham’ candidates whose sole purpose is to mislead voters and fraudulently impact the outcome of Arizona elections. This is not “open elections, open government” at all. Proposition 121 may have a “catchy” title, but it will usher in a selection process that threatens the voice of Arizona voters."
- According to Erik Lundstrom, the president of the UA Young Democrats and the Young Democrats of Arizona and a political science senior, "For independents to be catered to in a primary, it doesn’t make sense to me, because it’s the party’s deal. The party is deciding which candidate it wants. This system would allow independents to almost dictate that process."
- Angel Torres, co-chair of the state’s Green Party, stated, "If you are a Libertarian or a Green voter your candidates are almost guaranteed not to move on to the general election,” said Torres, who also is a candidate for state House in a Phoenix-area district."
The following are arguments that were submitted to the Arizona Secretary of State for the state voter guide. You can read more arguments here:
- "Dear Voter, I urge you to vote NO on Proposition 121. The proponents would have you believe that Arizona does not currently have an "open primary" system. This is categorically false. The truth is, Independent voters in Arizona have the right to vote at any election for any candidate by choosing a party ballot in a primary election. Proposition 121 repeals that important piece of our Constitution, passed by the voters in 1998, and further proposes sweeping changes to over 50 different election laws - the impacts of which have just begun to be understood. For example: Do you like to know a candidate's political party before casting your vote? This proposition would eliminate the requirement that candidates for partisan elective office specify their party affiliation on the ballot, opening the door to widespread voter deception. As Arizona's former Secretary of State, I know well the importance and value of increasing voter participation in our elections. But this proposition is not the way to do it. This measure is an attack on Arizona's political parties and an attack on our election process itself. Most disturbing, it threatens to create new opportunities for `sham' candidates whose sole purpose is to mislead voters and fraudulently impact the outcome of Arizona elections. This is not "open elections, open government" at all. Proposition 121 may have a "catchy" title, but it will usher in a selection process that threatens the voice of Arizona voters.
Submitted by Jan Brewer, Governor of Arizona.
- "As a 30 year retired military veteran followed by almost 20 years in the private sector with my wife's successful business, I feel the necessity to take the time and highly encourage each and everyone one to VOTE NO on initiative known as the "Open Elections/Open Government Act." As a former Inspector General for our Department of Defense and after reading the initiative many times, I find this initiative flawed in several areas. As an example, any candidate, under this initiative is at liberty to identify themselves (within 20 characters) as "whatever" he or she chooses. I find no restrictions for a candidate from not registering as "Endorsed by God" or some other misleading "20 character" listing ... this in itself will encourage and lead to an inappropriate drive by a candidate (s) to list themselves as "whatever it takes" to get the vote. I would suggest that this initiative must not have been written by an individual (s) who considered all of the ramifications nor did they have the best interest for the citizens of this great State of Arizona in mind. I strongly encourage you to research the problems that other States have had who implemented such an initiative, read the language of this initiative and how it allows any candidate to mislead the public and most of all, understand and evaluate what the consequences may be. My 30 years in the military defending our great Nation and what it stands for which includes our rights to have a civilized voting procedure is in jeopardy by this initiative - VOTE NO!"
Submitted by Harold B. Richards, resident of Sun City.
- Inside Tucson Business stated: "Considering the embarrassing notoriety Arizona has received as a result of partisan politics and the fact that registered voters are leaving political parties in favor of becoming independents, this is the right time for this idea. The loudest opposition is coming from politicians and those who have a vested interest in keeping the political rhetoric turned up."
- The Arizona Daily Sun stated: "It's time Arizona voters, especially independents, stood up and demanded a voice in the selection of candidates in the election that really matters: the primary. Make the candidates appeal to the broadest possible values from the start, and we'll wind up after the general election with elected leaders truly representative of our state."
- The Yuma Sun stated: "The bottom line is most voters simply want the best office holder possible, no matter their party, and the open primary system helps achieve that. It deserves our support."
- The Arizona Republic stated: "Arizonans increasingly are rejecting the Republican and Democratic parties and registering with no affiliation. Yet elections are rigged for the two major parties, diminishing the voice of independent candidates and voters. Proposition 121, the Open Elections/Open Government initiative, reshapes the process to fit the way voters are redefining themselves."
- The Sonoran Alliance stated: "Proposition 121 would give political insiders and unscrupulous consultants the vehicle they want to corrupt the candidate selection process. Special interests would pour millions into primaries to elect sham candidates. The voters need clear choices. They need confidence in the honesty of candidate identity. They need protection against corruption in the election process. The party primary system provides these safeguards. Proposition 121 destroys them. The measure should be soundly defeated on Election Day."
|2012 measure lawsuits|
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|By lawsuit type|
|Ballot text |
Motivation of sponsors
- See also: List of ballot measure lawsuits in 2012
Maricopa County Court Case
On July 23, 2012, a lawsuit was filed with Maricopa County Superior court aimed at blocking the measure from the ballot. According to reports, the lawsuit against the measure was filed by opponents of the measure, who are represented by Attorney Michael Liburdi, who claims the initiative has "a legion of unintended consequences." Liburdi continued by saying that the proposal violates the state single-subject rule.
Initiative proponents' campaign spokesman Joe Yuhas said thought the lawsuit would fail because the residents who signed the petition are entitled to have a say on the measure.
Judge Mark Brain stated that there was no reason why a prohibition on public funding for party activities should be included in the initiative.
According to reports, supporters of the initiative, The Open Government Committee, appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court to overturn the ruling on August 7, 2012. On August 17, 2012, the high court ruled, without comment, that the measure be placed on the ballot, if enough signatures were found to be collected by the petition drive.
Editor's Note: Court case name and link were not immediately posted by news reports.
Open Government Committee v. Ken Bennett
On August 24, 2012, a lawsuit was filed by the Open Government Committee regarding Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett's office disqualifying more than 100,000 signatures on initiative petitions that lead to the measure's exclusion from the 2012 ballot.
Supporters of the measure stated that the secretary's office used an incorrect formula to calculate the results of the random sample and that Maricopa County officials invalidated signatures that should have been counted.
A hearing was scheduled for August 28, 2012.
A counter lawsuit was filed by opponents of the measure asking for the measure to be kept off of the ballot. The court case can be found here.
However, according to reports, challengers stated they wanted another two hours to make their case in court.
According to Liburdi, "Given the magnitude of the controversy -- a proposed constitutional amendment that will fundamentally change the manner in which public officers are elected -- it was unreasonable and an abuse of discretion not to provide (challengers) with more time to present their case."
- During the days of October 4-11, 2011, a poll was conducted by Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy concerning the topic of nonpartisan ballots in primaries. The survey asked state state residents if they favored a nonpartisan primary ballot system. The results of the poll follow. The margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.
|Date of Poll||Pollster||In favor||Opposed||Undecided||Number polled|
|Oct. 4-11, 2011||Morrison Institute for Public Policy||58%||33%||9%||600|
Path to the ballot
- See also: Arizona signature requirements
In order to qualify for the 2012 statewide ballot, supporters were required to collect a minimum of 259,213 valid petition signatures by July 5, 2012.
According to reports, on June 4, 2012, supporters of the initiative stated that they had collected enough signatures to make the ballot. Reports stated that petition drive organizers had collected more than 280,000 signatures from state voters.
Although enough signatures were allegedly collected, supporters said at the time that they would keep collecting them leading up to the deadline in order to ensure that they had room for error.
On the day of the deadline, July 5, supporters turned in signatures to the Arizona Secretary of State's office. According to reports, however, state elections officials checked 5 percent of the signatures on the submitted petitions and found 30 percent of signatures checked were invalid. Using that formula, more than 100,000 signatures were deemed invalid, leaving the initiative drive short of signatures to be placed on the ballot.
However, a court ruling overturned this finding, allowing the measure to be placed on the ballot.
- 2012 ballot measures
- Laws governing the initiative process in Arizona
- Arizona 2012 ballot measures
- Arizona Legislature
- List of Arizona ballot measures
- Initiative would switch Arizona primary to 'top 2'
- Arizona Top-Two Primary Initiative Expected to Qualify for Ballot This Year
- Caivn.org, "Open Government Committee launches top-two open primary ballot initiative in Arizona", August 15, 2011
- Business Journals, "Paul Johnson Ballot iniative...", Retrieved October 3, 2011
- Associated Press,"Initiative would switch Arizona primary to 'top 2'," September 27, 2011
- Arizona Secretary of State, "Ballot Measures", September 17, 2012
- Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
- azfamily.com, "An in-depth look at the Open Government Initiative", August 17, 2011
- KJZZ.org,"Open primary goes back to court" August 29, 2012
- The Arizona Republic, "Open elections can break gridlock", September 29, 2012
- 12 News, "Push is on for open primary in Arizona", May 9, 2012
- Arizona Secretary of State, "State of Arizona Registration Report", August 28, 2012
- The Daily Courier, " PROPOSITION 121: PRO: Open primaries promote nonpartisanship, proponents say", October 13, 2012
- TucsonCitizen.com, "Prop. 121 – ‘top two’ primaries, yes or no?", October 10, 2012
- Independent Voter Network, "Independents Support Arizona Top-Two Open Primary Initiative", October 15, 2012
- Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry,"Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry Weighs in on Five Ballot Measures", July 9, 2012
- KJZZ.org, "Maricopa County Attorney opposes open primary initiative", September 5, 2012
- Sonoran Alliance, "Governor Jan Brewer: Vote NO on Proposition 121!", October 15, 2012
- Arizona Capitol Times, "Vote of no confidence on two ballot measures", June 8, 2012
- Arizona Central, "'Top-2 primary' no magic pill for moderation", July 11, 2012
- Tuscon Sentinel, "'Open Elections' initiative a Trojan Horse", September 12, 2012
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Cite error: Invalid
- Daily Wildcat, "Prop 121 pushes for fair representation of all political parties on election ballot", October 18, 2012
- Cronkite News Online, "Libertarian, Green parties: Proposition 121 would put us out of business", October 17, 2012
- Inside Tucson Business, "Vote for the good of business", October 12, 2012
- Arizona Daily Sun, "Open primary system is the game-changer Arizona sorely needs", October 12, 2012
- Yuma Sun, "Open primary has advantages for state voters", October 12, 2012
- Arizona Republic, "Leveling the playing field", October 11, 2012
- Sonoran Alliance, "Proposition 121 Corrupts Arizona’s Election System", October 1, 202
- East Valley Tribune, "Open primary foes file lawsuit to keep measure off Arizona ballot", July 16, 2012
- East Valley Tribune, "Judge to hear arguments in Arizona open primary initiative", July 25, 2012
- The Voting News, "Judge blocks top-two initiative from Arizona ballot", August 7, 2012
- Arizona Capitol Times, "Top-two primary supporters appeal to high court", August 8, 2012
- Tri Valley Central, "AZ high court puts ‘top two’ initiative back on Nov. ballot", August 21, 2012
- Arizona Daily Sun, "Initiative backers sue for spot on Arizona ballot", August 24, 2012
- Arizona Republic, "Judge OKs top-2 primary plan", August 31, 2012
- Arizona Daily Sun, "Open primary opponents want 2 more hours", September 5, 2012
- Arizona Daily Star, "Open-primaries measure to be on Arizona ballot", September 7, 2012
- Cronkite News Online, "Poll: More than half of Arizonans support a nonpartisan ballot in primaries", November 14, 2011
- KPHO.com, "Open elections initiative appears headed to ballot", June 4, 2012
- Arizona Republic, "Backers: 2 Arizona ballot initiatives have enough signatures", June 6, 2012
- The Daily Courier, "Petitions filed for 2 Arizona ballot measures", July 5, 2012