State Capitol News
2:20 pm
Tue August 24, 2010

85 percent want wide-open primary

Phoenix, AZ – A survey conducted by the Morrison Institute found more than 85
percent of those questioned want a wide-open primary: Any
registered voter gets to choose among anyone running for each
office, without regard to political party. It also found 75
percent want a truly non-partisan system where all primary
candidates are on a single ballot and the two who get the most
votes in the primary go on to the general election. And if that
happens to be two Democrats or two independents -- and there are
no Republicans -- that's the choice voters would have in
November. Under the current system, those registered with a
recognized party chose who will be the candidate for various
offices. The winners of each party's primary face off in
November. Independents can vote but have to choose in which
party's primary they want to participate. One criticism has been
that most legislative districts are heavily weighted with voters
of one party or another. That effectively makes the whoever
appeals to the voters of the majority party the eventual winner
in November. Californians voted in June to create just such a
non-partisan system. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger who pushed the
change argued that it results in the election of candidates who
are more centrist than those selected by the partisans of either
party. Schwarzenegger said he is proof of that. In an interview
with NPR, he pointed out that he got elected in 2003 during a
recall of incumbent Gray Davis. There were more than 100
candidates. But they all ran on the same ballot.

(I appealed to Democrats and Republicans, independents,
everybody. And if there would have been no recall election, I
wouldn't have been able to win. Because I would not have been
able to win a Republican primary because I'm too much in the
center and not that far to the right.)

There is precedent in Arizona for the idea. State lawmakers voted
earlier this year to require all city elections be non-partisan.
The city of Tucson, which has had partisan elections, tried
unsuccessfully to convince a Pima County Superior Court judge to
void the law. An appeal is pending. But it might be worth noting
that while the Republican-controlled Legislature was pushing the
idea of non-partisan elections on cities, the lawmakers were not
interested in doing the same for their own races. For Arizona
Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.