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Guest opinion: Prop. 121

'Open Elections' initiative a Trojan Horse

While most voters are focused on the national election, Arizona voters need to pay careful attention to a ballot measure that could imperil freedom in our state.

It’s Proposition 121, the so-called “Open Elections/Open Primary” initiative, and it’s the ultimate Trojan Horse.

Its backers acknowledge that their goal is to produce more moderate elected officials—that is, fewer conservatives.

They accomplish that by abolishing party primaries and replacing it them with a single primary in which anyone can run and everyone can vote. Sounds good.

But then, only the top two candidates proceed to the general election. No one else—no independents, no third party candidates—can gain access to the general election ballot. The idea is that the more moderate candidate emerging from the primary will win.

The dirty little secret is that in many instances, voters in the general election will be limited to a choice between two Democrats or two Republicans. In California, which implemented the “top-two” system this year, both candidates will be from the same party in one out of every five congressional districts.

That will happen frequently when more candidates from one party compete in the primary, thus dividing the vote. In Arizona's new 9th Congressional District, which has a slight Republican registration edge, Republican Vernon Parker will face off against Democrat Kyrsten Sinema this fall in a classic conservative/liberal contest. But if the top-two system was in place, Sinema would be facing off in November against David Schapira, another liberal Democrat who received the second-most primary votes, which would be no choice at all for the hundreds of thousands of independents, Republicans, and people registered in other parties.

In 2014, if more Republicans than Democrats run for governor and divide the primary vote, we could be limited to a choice between two Democrats in the general election--in a state with more Republicans than Democrats! The perversities go on and on and will afflict both parties.

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But because Arizona is a conservative state, the net result will be to move our state to the left. At a time when our state’s sovereignty is all that stands between us and an ever-growing federal government, we can ill afford a system designed to sabotage our freedom spirit.

Proposition 121 is complex. Please take time to explain it to your friends who may be taken in by the benign-sounding rhetoric being used by its supporters.

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Latest comments on this storyRead all 8 »

Sep 13, 2012, 7:56 am
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No, it wouldn’t have.  Ventura was only at 15% in the polls at the time of the primary.  Most voters just won’t really pay attention to minor party or independent candidates until after they know who the major party candidates will be.  The Democratic primary was holding most people’s attention during the first half of September in Minnesota.  It was called “The Three Sons” primary (Humphrey-Mondale-Freeman) and was very dramatic all by itself.  Jesse Ventura campaigned against top-two when it was on the California ballot.

Sep 12, 2012, 7:16 pm
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The Ventura example is one near and dear to my heart. My home state, and the politician who has made the most sense to me.

Part of Ventura’s victory can be credited to Minnesota’s same-day voter registration law. Had the top-two system existed in ‘98 in Minnesota, his campaign would have just had to move the timetable up to the primary rather than the general. The result would have been the same.

Sep 12, 2012, 6:56 pm
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The top-two system hurts independent candidates also.  There is no instance of a congressional election in a top-two state in which an independent placed first or second in the primary, if there was both a Democrat and a Republican also running.  The only exception is the California district this year now represented by Congressman Henry Waxman.  An independent did place second, but he was a registered Republican until late in 2011, and he has been endorsed by many prominent Republicans, and he has more campaign contributions than Waxman has.

Libertarians have elected state legislators in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Alaska.  Greens have elected state legislators in California, Arkansas, and Maine.

Jesse Ventura, Reform Party nominee for Minnesota Governor in 1998, only got 3% in Minnesota’s classic open primary in September.  But he was elected.  Under a top-two system he almost surely would have been kept off the November ballot.  That is why Ventura is against the top-two system.

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