Tucson Progressive

Pamela Powers Hannley, a progressive voice for Arizona

Join the debate: Should Arizona adopt the open primary system?

Years of gerrymandering and cronyism have left Arizona with one of the most ideologically conservative, Teapublican Legislatures in the country. Instead of balancing the budget and funding programs (like education) that will help Arizonans succeed, they waste time grandstanding on extremist issues.

For years, disgruntled Arizonans have been voicing their dissatisfaction with politics as usual by leaving both the Democratic and Republican Parties in droves. Voter registration in Arizona is split approximately in thirds– with Republicans having the most registered voters, followed by Independents, and then Democrats. Some predict that by November 2012, there will be more Independents in Arizona than Republicans.

So, if so many Arizonans don’t belong to either major party, why does Arizona still have an election system based upon two parties?

That is the question many Arizonans are asking themselves these days. A bipartisan group called Open Elections/Open Government has organized a ballot initiative to put the question of top-two open primaries on the November 2012 ballot.

Under the current system, Republicans and Democrats hold separate party primaries (funded by taxpayers) to elect their candidates. Democrats vote in the Democratic Primary; Republicans vote in the Republican Primary; and Independents must request one ballot or the other. One winner from each party then competes in the general election.

Under the top-two primary system, all primary candidates– regardless of party affiliation– will participate in the same primary, and everyone can vote. If you like a Green for one office and a Republican for another– no problem– you can vote for both of them on the same ballot. The top-two vote-getters– regardless of party– compete in the General Election.

Do you think having a top-two primary system would help Arizona?

To help people decide the answer to this question, Progressive Democrats of Arizona (PDA) Tucson Chapter is sponsoring a debate on open primaries for our next membership meeting on Thursday, April 26, 2012 at Hotel Tucson City Center (St. Mary’s and Grande).

Former State Legislator Ted Downing (pro) and former Tucson Mayor Tom Volgy (con) will be our debators. Attendees will have a chance to ask questions and vote on the open primaries question before and after the debate.

For more background on open primaries and to learn what is happening in other states, check out “Will Open Primaries Shake Up Politics in Arizona?” For more information about PDA Tucson and other activities, check out the website and Facebook page.

The program begins at 7 p.m.; doors open at 6 p.m. There is a $5 suggested donation to offset expenses.

19 comments on “Join the debate: Should Arizona adopt the open primary system?

  1. Richard Winger
    April 26, 2012

    The top-two primary provides by law that only two candidates can be on the ballot in November.  November is election day in the U.S.  Federal law since the 19th century has told the states they must vote for president in congress in November.  Leaving only two candidates on the ballot (inevitably the two candidates with the most name recognition and money) is a severe infringement of voting rights for people who want to vote for other candidates.  Instead of a top-two primary, Arizona should pass an open primary, which would not cut down on the number of candidates permitted to run in November.  Under an open primary (which 21 states have) parties have their own primary ballots and their own nominees, but on primary election day any voter can choose any party’s primary ballot.

  2. Garcia_Blase
    April 26, 2012

    Yes, they should adopt an open primary so we can restore balance in this crazy state. 

  3. Seth Miller
    April 26, 2012

    Give it some time in California and see if it works first.

  4. tiponeill
    April 26, 2012

    I think it would make matters worse, and we would wind up with the two candidates being Kelley vs Antenori.

    This idea that having political parties is a bad thing is totally wrongheaded – the two parties have very different philosophies of government and their candidates generally reflect that philosophy, so that if I vote for a Dem or a Repub I can be pretty sure what I’m voting for even if I don’t know a candidates name or track record.

    It’s a very useful shorthand for millions of voters who don’t have the time or inclination to be bombarded with inane attack ads and debates.

    Where I think things could be improved would be NOT to  allow independents to vote in party primaries, so that the actual registered members of that party could select their best candidate without the mischief making that occurs when “independents” try to sabotage the process and vote for the least electable candidate.

    • tunkashila
      April 26, 2012

      Tip, the problem with your argument is that even if you accept the proposition that both parties profess to have different philosophies, the distinction is entirely illusory as they are both beholden to the same special interest groups on Wall Street and protect these elites, facilitating their chicanery. 

      Furthermore, the tendency of parties to nominate and promote only those who adhere to their stated philosophy only serves to stifle other points of view.  Your “useful shorthand” appears to honest, non-partisan observers to be nothing more than dogma, which alienates people and further marginalizes a once-relevant system.

      • tiponeill
        April 26, 2012

         the distinction is entirely illusory 

        Yes that is the argument, and it is false. Just ask a gay person or a woman who wants and abortion or a student waiting for the Dream Act or…..

        There’s a big difference between the parties.

      • tunkashila
        April 26, 2012

        Socially, you have a point, but I don’t think Democrats care any more for women’s or gay rights than Republicans, other than paying them lip service (no pun intended) to heighten the impression of difference. 

        And after the press conference, they all go raise funds from the same batches of corporate swine together and pat each others’ backs for maintaining the illusion.  You confuse wedge issues with real difference.   

      • tiponeill
        April 26, 2012

        Socially, you have a point

        In real life I have a point.

        > but I don’t think Democrats care any more for women’s or gay rights than Republicans, other than paying them lip service (no pun intended) to heighten the impression of difference. 

        I don’t know about “care” but I do know about the laws that are passed, which is what counts.

        I understand that a privileged white male that has no concern for anyone else’s’rights would see no difference between the parties, but those of us who are “wedge issues” see big differences.

      • tunkashila
        April 26, 2012

        Maybe so, but since you and the other wedgies aren’t paying the parties’ bills, don’t hold your breath waiting for them to offer anything other than bandaids for major problems. 

        And FWIW, I agree with and support gay and women’s rights, despite my status as a “privileged white male”.  I just happen to think we should solve problems like the war and deficit spending that affect all citizens before focusing on sexual and gender-specific issues.  For some reason, neither the Rs or the Ds seem very interested in dealing with those…coincidence?  I’m sure their motives are pure…. 

    • BajaDemocrats
      April 26, 2012

       No, we would still end up with Barber-Kelly.

      Barber 44.185
      Kelly: 27,101
      McSally: 19,413
      Antenori: 17,493


      • tiponeill
        April 26, 2012

        I don’t think that the votes would be the same in an open primary with more challengers. I know as a Dem I didn’t even vote because Barber was the only one on the ballot.
        If others like Aboud were on the ballot, and maybe a Green and a Libertarian, all unidentified, I think you would see very different results

      • tunkashila
        April 26, 2012

        And I think if you had the courage of your convictions to do a write-in and spread the word via your blog, you would see very different results.  As long as you stay lashed to a party/ideology, you will never see the change you desire.

      • tiponeill
        April 26, 2012

        And I think if you had the courage of your convictions to do a write-in and spread the word via your blog, you would see very different results.

        You seem to think a lot of things that aren’t backed up by reality 🙂

      • tunkashila
        April 26, 2012

        Funny, I made the same observation about you!

      • BajaDemocrats
        April 27, 2012

         Wait, so all your comments about how you don’t like early mail-in voting because you enjoy going to the polls so much and you didn’t even bother to vote in the primary??? You had a choice, you could have written in the name of anyone you preferred over Barber. Me, I took the 10 seconds to fill in the oval next to Ron’s name, sign it, and drop it in the mailbox.

      • tiponeill
        April 27, 2012

        There was nothing to bother filling in the oval for, now was there ?
        A waste of postage 🙂

      • Bruxley
        April 27, 2012

        A bit skewed as Barber didn’t run directly against the others so his numbers wouldn’t be the same given independents in the mix with the open primary system proposed.

  5. Carolyn_Classen
    April 27, 2012
  6. Bruxley
    April 27, 2012

    I’m a bit on the fence.
    On one hand I do see the rationale behind the argument that a party’s primary results in a nominee that appeals to the far wings of those parties due to the fact that the most involved party members are the ones that show up to vote in the primaries. The Dems pick someone very left and the Reps pick someone very right while the actual majority of voters are somewhere in between resulting in the classic problem for most voters in the general election where they really don’t like either one very much and vote ‘the lesser of two evils’. Even though Independents can choose to vote in an Arizona primary in the existing system, they can only choose a Rep. or Dem. ballot so they are still limited on who they can vote for. They may like a Dem. for one office and a Rep. for another but in the primary they only have one party’s ballot so they can’t pick candidates of different parties.
    Another attribute I like is the end of unopposed primaries and general elections. As long as at least 2 people are running, they will both face challengers in both elections and I feel that will cause more attention to be paid to the public good than to partisanship. It keeps an elected official’s eye on the ball when they know they will face a challenger every election cycle
    The down side I see is that the boundaries for the different districts have been so gerrymandered that virtually everyone is designed to be a ‘safe’ Democrat or ‘safe’ Republican district. This means that the district would likely be perpetually locked in to that party leaving majorities in City, County, and State bodies fixed. This kind of perpetual control is directly contrary to the cleansing effect of elections. Regardless of which side one is on, perpetual majority existing and being known to be perpetual, will cause wrongheaded behavior.
    This does however give a party room to manipulate who runs in ‘safe’ districts and unduly influence a primary as we saw in the Ward 1 City Council primary last City cycle in Romero’s race where the party chair decided who the party wanted to win the primary so they actively worked against Romero’s primary challenger due to it being an unopposed General. It was illegal, it was despicable, but it has unchallenged because other Democrats didn’t want to cross someone willing to hurt their own and Dems.  have perpetual majority with the unique ward system primary, citywide general system in Tucson elections so the party boss is the real boss and a challenge to that authority will get THEM in Flores’ shoes if they cross the boss.
    I think this proposal works if competition is the main desired factor when drawing districts and when people are only allowed to vote for their own elected representatives and not someone else’s. Unfortunately it’s not the case right now. SEVERAL other factors come in first to pass judicial review. And we only get a shot at re-drawing these districts every 10 years so we have what we have until 2022.
    Given the problem with gerrymandered districts verses the problem with unopposed elections I’m leaning toward going ahead with this proposition and solving at least half the problem now and hoping that will get people in seats to draw more competitive districts later.
    I say let’s get the party hold over who we have to choose from out of the equation and get this Open Elections proposition on the ballot. It solves at least half the problem.

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The Tucson Progressive: Pamela Powers Hannley

I stand on the side of Love. I believe in kindness to all creatures on Earth and the inherent self-worth of all individuals--not just people who agree with me or look like me.

Widespread economic and social injustice prompted me to become a candidate for the Arizona House, representing Legislative District 9 in the 2016 election. My platform focuses on economic reforms to grow Arizona's economy, establish a state-based public bank, fix our infrastructure, fully fund public education, growlocal small businesses and community banks, and put people back to work at good-paying jobs. I also stand for equal rights, choice, and paycheck fairness for women. I am running as a progressive and running clean.

My day job is managing editor for the American Journal of Medicine, an academic medicine journal with a worldwide circulation. In addition, my husband and I co-direct Arizonans for a New Economy, Arizona's public banking initiative. I am a member of the national board of the Public Banking Institute, and I am co-chair of the Arizona Democratic Progressive Caucus, the largest caucus of the Arizona Democratic Party.

I am a published author, photographer, videographer, clay artist, mother, nana, and wife. I have a bachelor's degree in journalism from Ohio State University and a masters in public health from the University of Arizona. I grew up in Amherst, Ohio, but I have lived in Tucson, Arizona since 1981. I am a proud member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson and the Public Relations Society of America.

My Tucson Progressive blog and Facebook page feature large doses of liberal ideas, local, state, and national politics, and random bits of humor. I also blog at Blog for Arizona and the Huffington Post.

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