This loss is actually a win for the effort to open Arizona primary elections
Posted by Cathy L. Stewart on December 21, 2023 at 12:46 PM
azcentral - This loss is actually a win for the effort to open Arizona primary elections
Opinion: The demise of one proposal to open Arizona's primary elections to all candidates and voters should help a like-minded ballot initiative.
By Abe Kwok, Arizona Republic
Published Dec. 20, 2023
With a similar election reform measure out of the way, voters now have a clearer choice in 2023. Dragon Claws, GettyImages/iStockphoto
In bowing out, backers of Better Ballot Arizona pave the way for a kindred initiative to make its case with voters.
And a better one at that.
The abandoned effort was strikingly similar to an initiative that remains in the running, Make Elections Fair Arizona.
Both measures did similar things
Both seek to:
- establish open primaries.
- set the same minimum number of nominating signatures for all candidates.
- allow ranked choice voting that comes into play when no candidate garners a majority of the vote.
- force the presidential preference elections to open up to all voters if they’re to remain taxpayer funded.
Both drew the ire of Republican state lawmakers, who voted to refer a measure to voters that would keep primaries closed.
(Republicans bristle most at the complaint that the current primary system produces extreme partisans, even if that’s evident by the present makeup of the Legislature and recent party nominees for other offices.)
Now, voters will have a more binary choice
With the departure of Better Ballot Arizona, it sets up a binary choice for voters next November:
- Vote for Make Elections Fair and create a single primary election in which all candidates may run, regardless of political affiliation, and all voters are allowed to participate.
- Or embrace status quo and support the legislative referred initiative that requires primary elections to remain partisan affairs, accessible only to party members.
The stark choice is favorable to election reformers, whether they more ardently favored Better Ballot Arizona or Make Elections Fair.
Make Elections Fair is the more smartly constructed (and funded) of the two.
That’s exhibited by its simplicity and flexibility in enacting an open primary.
- allows for two to five candidates with the most votes in an open primary to advance to the general election.
- leaves it largely up to state lawmakers to implement ranked choice voting rather than to outright mandate it, as Better Ballot Arizona did.
Make Elections Fair is the better option
By doing so, Make Elections Fair adroitly sidesteps having to get mired in the particulars of ranked choice voting or to educate and persuade voters about the nitty gritty details.
(Better Ballot Arizona, for instance, set conditions on when a ranked choice ballot would be disqualified, including the number of skips in a voter’s rankings of candidates.)
Make Elections Fair also gives the GOP-led Legislature the responsibility of drafting the process and procedures to execute ranked choice voting.
That may be a small selling point with Republican voters, who are the most skeptical toward open primaries, according to polling by the political consultant group HighGround, a principal backer of Make Elections Fair.
But solidifying support wherever it can be found can’t hurt.
Polling suggests support (and skepticism)
Polling indicates majority support for the open primaries initiative, but it also shows support, by a slimmer margin, for the competing initiative offered up by GOP lawmakers.
Expect the Make Elections Fair side to campaign vigorously that open primaries strengthen voter choice and election fairness — themes that have tested well across the political spectrum in surveys.
That includes allowing independents, who now outnumber both Republicans and Democrats, to vote without first having to request one of the two parties’ ballots.
It’s one of open primaries’ many winning arguments.
Voters should be more readily able to hear and act on them with Better Ballot Arizona out of the picture.
Independents Voters for AZ on Facebook
There's Magic in An Open Primary System
January 09, 2024
The fear factor and winning the independent voter
January 03, 2024
Arizona PBS - Independent voters increasing in Arizona
December 06, 2023