State Capitol News
2:18 pm
Thu August 4, 2011

Bipartisan Group Works to Convince Voters to Revamp State's Election Procedures

Phoenix, AZ – Under the current system, candidates for statewide, legislative and congressional office have to survive a partisan primary to get on the November ballot where all registered voters have a choice. Former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson said the problem with that is those who vote in the primaries tend to be the most doctrinaire of each party, people who he described as having the most distilled, partisan point of view.

(And that is even becoming more distilled as increasing numbers of people begin to register as independents -- over a third of the public now -- and the candidates that you get out of them often times end up being very extreme or they recognize that, to appeal to the extreme, it's very difficult for them to cross the aisle and work with the other side.)

The proposal would instead have a wide open primary with all the candidates running in the primary and the top two vote-getters then facing off in the general election, regardless of whether that turned out to be two Republicans, two Democrats, two independents or any combination. Johnson, who ran unsuccessfully as the Democratic candidate for governor in 1998, said that system would require primary candidates to appeal to all voters to get to the next round. That's also the assessment of Republican Carolyn Allen who represented Scottsdale for 16 years in the Legislature. She said the recent debate in Washington over the debt limit shows what type of politician gets elected under the current system.

(The people that we send up there swear that they will not cross the aisle. And somehow working together and working for the good of the country and the people you represent, your constituency, it's not near as important as being hard-core for your party.)

The plan is modeled after what voters in the state of Washington and California already have approved. Backers here need nearly 260,000 signatures on petitions by next July 5th to put the issue on the 2012 ballot. For Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.