For an Arizona group looking to transition their state to an open primary system, a current court battle over election law may serve as a speed bump towards a long-term electoral solution.
Superior Court Judge Mark Brain ruled the Open Elections/Open Government Act violates the state’s one subject constitutional amendment rule and is ineligible to appear on the November ballot.
The Open Elections/Open Government Act aims to institute a top-two open primary scheme in Arizona to replace partisan primary elections. Earlier this year the Open Government Committee announced the coordinated collection of over 300,000 signatures, well over the amount needed to qualify for the November ballot. Organizers were preparing to raise nearly $2 million for a fall campaign push.
In addition, the act states:
“Political parties may establish such procedures as they see fit to elect party officers, endorse or support candidates, or otherwise participate in all elections, but no such procedures shall be paid for or subsidized using public funds.”
The language above has come under scrutiny by political parties concerned with protecting their First Amendment rights.
The specific provision did not appear in initial drafts of the measure modeled after California’s own open primary ballot measure, Proposition 14. The original section restated the First Amendment rights of political parties and did not mention funding, until late June 2011 revisions added, “but no such procedures shall be paid for or subsidized using public funds.”
The addition is problematic given the state’s “one subject rule”, which states that constitutional amendment proposals must have one subject to avoid “log-rolling”, or forcing citizens to vote for something they otherwise wouldn’t simply because the two proposals are attached.
On Monday, the Judge Brain ruled the issues of open primary and political party funding were separate and thus violated the Separate Amendment Rule.
“[T]here is no good reason that a vote for or against that topic should be bundled with a vote on an open primary,” wrote Brain.
The ruling does not spell good news for Arizona open primary advocates in the immediate short term. While disappointed, organizers plan on appealing the ruling to the Arizona Supreme Court.
“We think we have a very good claim, a very good reason as to why that was essential,” Paul Johnson, chairman of the Open Government Committee told the East Valley Tribune on Monday. “We’ll make that case to the upper court.”
Other organizers of the Open Elections/Open Government Act are not so optimistic, sighting the challenged provision as inherently “problematic” and a “poison pill”.
“It’s going to be a camel race out here and the camel is short on water,” said committee member Ted Downing. “That doesn’t mean the drive for a new election scheme is over.”
Instead, if the initiative is blocked from the ballot, organizers will continue advocating for a change to Arizona elections, including more voter education and mobilizing a growing independent majority.
Independent voters now make up over 32% of registered voters, according to Arizona’s Secretary of State. They are the second-largest bloc of voters, outnumbering Democrats and currently gaining on Republicans. Despite their numbers, Arizona independent voters are disadvantaged in partisan primaries and currently have no representation in state government.
Join the discussion Please be relevant and respectful.
Arizona voters passed an open primary initiative in 1998. As soon as that went into effect, party politicians moved to nullify it. Republican legislators combined with State Attorney General Janet Napolitano in one of the few truly bi-partisan things ever done in Arizona by moving the Presidential Primary from September to February, while Napolitano provided an opinion that since the Presidential Primary was not mentioned by name in the open primary initiative, independent voters could not vote in the Presidential Primary. What independent voters need to do is to get signatures for another initiative that specifies the Presidential Primary, and then they will restore the open primary status of Arizona primary elections. These top two gimmicks are a Democratic Party attempt to retain control over independent voters. Independent voters will not gain ballot access by emulating political parties, which initiated the primary election system in 1907 to stop the Populist movement, an attempt of voters at the turn of the century to escape from party control. Independent voters have to regain what they once had, direct access to the general election ballot before they will be able to participate in the American government.
Correlation does not imply causation. In NC, the ballot access for independent candidates is astronomically difficult. For instance, an independent candidate for US Senate has to collect 85,000 (yes, I said 85,000) signatures, just to get on the ballot. Republican and Democratic candidates just have to sign up with the Board of Elections and they're on the ballot. Therefore, because the two parties totally control the process, I will always be given only two choices when I vote and because I lean a little more one way than the other, I usually go for the same party. I am given ONLY two choices, I vote and then I'm accused of being a "closet partisan". Open up the ballot process and then see if I'm partisan.
so that means any party that doesn't let independents vote will be blocking out a lot of voters. just thought i would throw that in.
In re Chris TheBruce: "Independent Voter" is correct. Frankly I'm happy to let anyone vote in any primary. In re: "Independent Voter" comment I'm not disguising what I do or who I am. I'm interested in the dialogue that's why I'm here. And I'm not Chair of the GOP COS Assn anymore -- I guess I need to change my bio somewhere. So to clarify for anyone who wants: I am a Republican consultant. I run Republican campaigns. I am a Republican. I'm also interested in the IVP. They are not mutually exclusive in my mind. I think the IVP posts any number of very interesting things that are worth thinking about. When I see something that makes less sense I tend to comment. Thus - the reason there are not 32% independent legislators in AZ even though there are 32% independent voters is that most of these voters consider themselves, or vote anyway, in a partisan fashion. Our numbers actually show a big part of Independent voters, the most active and educated, are quite partisan... more so than week Republicans or weak Democrats. Additionally you hit on something worth thinking about - another reason Independents have a hard time getting elected is exactly what was said - they are NOT a political party and don't have infrastructure and the more infrastructure you build or try to build trying to get independent candidates elected the more Independents become a psuedo political party and you have to start agreeing on what 'independents' agree on as a group - which really isn't much.
Independents are not "closet partisans" as has been suggested in some of the comments. We do not seek a third party, we seek politicians who are "closet independents" but currently lack the courage to stand up against their own parties. For a primer on the modern Independent movement, join us on a national conference call, tonight at 8:00EST.http://myemail.constantcontact.com/TONIGHT--Conference-Call---Independents-Rising--The-Movement-Behind-the-Book.html?soid=1101755064926&aid=gIv3Y6czdnc
I personally registered as no party preference, because I do not see Republicans actions to be truly conservative and they continue to depart from the Constitution and weaken The Bill of Rights...
Chris TheBruce The Presidential primary is still governed by federal law, in which there are still closed primaries. That is why you could not vote in the Republican primary even though California has open primaries
At Duane, i am an Independent, non-partisan, unaffiliated voter who wants to know why the the Republican party would not accept "cross-over" voters for Ron Paul in CA and so many other states? Were you afraid he would win?!?
Duane Dichiara (a Republican operative) I think IVP has been very deliberate to point out that independent voters are not a third party. In fact, the chairman of the board was quoted as saying independent voters span the political spectrum and cannot be generalized. Duane, why are you not transparent about your role as a the President of the Republican chiefs of staff? http://capitolweekly.net/features/personnelProfile.php?_c=yndsofktjz1wps&id=wnom4b9rr0gt6b&done=.yynirsu6cbfyaa
Sigh. Because as I've posted time and time again there are very few actual independent voters. Most of them (and we poll all over the country) are closet Democrats or Republicans. The "Independent Voter" project constantly posts posts that assumes these independents are basically a third party, similar in various ways. They aren't.
Except we could not vote for Ron Paul in the CA and many other State's primaries due to not being registered as Republicans...
The authors of the initiative were probably a bit ambitious to include that clause. They should have anticipated the conflict in the initiative, but I'm sure they were thinking of killing two birds with one stone, especially since Open Primary has so much momentum.
I do agree that there are many "closet" dems and reps that claim they're independents, but I think it's hard to place independents on a spectrum because sometimes political ideas are neither left nor right.
It will be very difficult for the judge's argument to stand if/when Independents take the majority in Arizona. Probably not too far off.