The Arizona Republic
May 8, 2012
Open primaries have been touted as a game-changer for Arizona politics. They have also been dubbed the latest fad from those who like to engineer political outcomes.
Voters may decide which definition they like best. Supporters of Open Elections/Open Government (azopengov.org) are collecting signatures to put the question on the November ballot.
The goal is to replace the current partisan primaries with a single open primary in which all qualified candidates would run and all registered voters would participate, regardless of party affiliation. The top two vote getters would advance to the general election — regardless of party. The system would not apply to elections for president and vice president.
Some say this “top two” system would result in general-election candidates who have broader appeal. Under the current system, partisan primaries have low turnout and those who do show up tend to be on the extreme edges of their respective parties. Moderate candidates usually get eliminated at the primary level.
Others suggest that the top-two system could further limit choices by producing general-election races between two members of the same party. Concerns have also been raised that this system could weaken political parties.
An O’Connor House Issues and Answers Forum on Wednesday will present a panel of experts to discuss the complex issues raised by this proposed change in how Arizona elections are run.
“Open Primaries in Arizona: The Pros and Cons” will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Burton Barr Library, 1221 N. Central Ave., Phoenix. The event is free and open to the public, but reservations are required because seating is limited. Register on line at: www.oconnorhouse.org.
Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is scheduled to open the program, which will discuss both Arizona’s initiative and what’s been happening nationwide.
The discussion includes film producer and California politician Steve Peace, the architect of that state’s top-two primary system. Also on the panel will be Richard Winger of the Coalition on Free and Open Elections, Grady Gammage, Jr., one of the authors of the Arizona initiative, and Alan Maguire of the Maguire political consulting firm.
A new paper, “The Nonpartisan Primary: Is it a Game Changer?” by Morrison Institute Senior Fellow David R. Berman, will be distributed.
An open primary system would have far-reaching impacts on Arizona elections. This forum is a valuable opportunity for people to hear both sides presented in a rational, civil manner.