Open Primary Supporters May Get Question on Ballot

Jul 5, 2012

Petitions with more than 300,000 signatures were submitted today to give voters a chance to decide this fall whether to revamp the way they elect public officials. 

Campaigns for statewide, legislative, congressional and county supervisor races are run on a partisan basis. Members of each party select their nominee in a primary, with the winner of each facing off in the general election. This initiative would create a primary of all candidates of all parties. Then the top two vote-getters face off in the general election, regardless of party. That could mean two Democrats or two Republicans. Former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson, who is spearheading the initiative, said the current system does not work because only a few people from each party determine who will be the ultimate candidates.

"There's no competition," Johnson said. "The existing system is breaking down. What's taking place is we're watching our legislatures and our congresses becoming more extreme, more polarized. And the reason for that is they want to get reelected in those primaries."

Johnson said the change is not all that radical, pointing to the nonpartisan races that already exist in most cities.

"The council people who are elected under an open system, an open election with an open primary, they know that when they run for reelection they're going to have to go talk to Republicans, independents and Democrats," he said. "And so they govern accordingly."