No change to State's Primary Election System

Nov 7, 2012

Voters on Tuesday rejected a chance to radically change how politicians are elected to office.

Proposition 121 would have scrapped the current system where those registered with each party nominate a candidate and all the nominees face off in the general election. Instead it would have created a plan where all candidates from all parties run in the primary, with the top-two vote-getters facing off in November regardless of party. Former Phoenix mayor Paul Johnson said it would have empowered independents who make up a third of all registered voters.

"This was about a large portion becoming disenfranchised with the existing partisan system," he said. "Our measure addressed that. Now, what their side did was they confused people. They said, hey, here's what you're going to end up with. Every race is going to have two Democrats or two Republicans. You won't have a choice."

Johnson said if his side had more money it could have fought that. But Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said the arguments were on his side.

"I think we were able to educate voters about the foreseeable negative consequences," Montgomer said. "And, in the context of previous election reform efforts, I have to say that this time around, Arizona voters said we're not going to be fooled again."

Those prior voter-approved measures included public financing of elections and creating an independent redistricting commission, things that were sold as reforms but may not have produced the intended results.