Former Phoenix Mayor Pushing Open Primary Elections in Arizona

Jul 28, 2014

Voters may get another chance to decide if they want to create nonpartisan elections in the state. Arizona Public Radio’s Howard Fischer explains.

Paul Johnson details for reporters in 2012 his initiative to create nonpartisan primaries in Arizona. While the measure was soundly defeated, Johnson is trying again for 2016.
Credit Capitol Media Services file photo by Howard Fischer

The proposal by former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson would create an open primary system for county, legislative, statewide and congressional races, with all candidates running against each other, regardless of party affiliation. And, the top two would face off in the general election. Johnson said the two political parties try to suppress independents who now make up more of the registered voters than Republicans or Democrats.

“Now the effect of that is we are getting a country and a state that is increasingly more divided, increasingly more extreme, where the center is dramatically underrepresented,” Johnson said.

A virtually identical measure was trounced two years ago by a 2-1 margin. But, Johnson blamed that on the fact that plan still allowed candidates to list their affiliations on the ballot, meaning general election voters could see they’re being asked to choose between two Democrats or two Republicans. The new plan would preclude any mention of affiliation on the ballot.

“What we want is for people to make a decision based upon the merit of the candidate,” Johnson said.

Johnson will need close to 300,000 valid signatures by July 2016 to put the issue on the ballot that year.