Many perspectives, 1 simple etiquette

After SCOTUS Victory, Voters in Arizona Want Nonpartisan Primaries Next

Created: 30 June, 2015
Updated: 15 October, 2022
2 min read

Arizona Public Media reported last week that former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson is once again leading an effort to implement a top-two primary in Arizona similar to the electoral systems in California and Washington state.

Johnson led the push to put the top-two system on the 2012 ballot, and voters rejected it by a two-to-one margin. He thinks putting a top-two ballot measure in front of Arizona voters in 2016 would have different results. “The grassroots, nonpartisan movement is really a nationwide effort," Johnson said. "We’re not the only state that will be pushing this.” - Arizona Public Media

Read the full article here.

The report mentions Louisiana and Nebraska also having a top-two system, though there are important differences between these states.

Nebraska uses a top-two primary to elect state lawmakers to its unicameral legislature, a political system that sets Nebraska apart from the rest of the country. However, unlike California and Washington state, the primary system is not used for statewide offices or congressional seats.

Louisiana holds its first round of elections in November, when the rest of the country conducts general elections. All candidates and voters participate on a single ballot. If a candidate gets over 50 percent of the vote, they win the election. If, however, no candidate crosses the 50 percent threshold, a runoff election is held.



In California and Washington state, the first round of elections is held ahead of the general election. All candidates and voters, regardless of political affiliation, participate on a single ballot and the top two vote-getters move on to the general election, regardless of how much of the vote either candidate garners.

What makes the top-two primary nonpartisan is the fundamental purpose it serves. Party primary systems -- whether open or closed -- serve an explicitly partisan purpose. Party primaries select candidates for political parties -- candidates that end up serving the interests of a private organization rather than all voters in their electoral district or state.

The top-two primary serves a a nonpartisan purpose. By placing everyone, regardless of party or lack thereof, on a single ballot, candidates are chosen for the public at-large rather than private organizations. This means more power is given to the individual voter to decide who represents them.

This is an important distinction to make between primaries that are held in California and Washington versus primaries that are held in Arizona, or Texas, or New Jersey.

Washington was the first state in the U.S. to adopt this type of nonpartisan election reform under Initiative 872 in 2004. California followed with Proposition 14 in 2010. Along with renewed efforts to implement nonpartisan elections in Arizona, there are also new efforts to implement a similar electoral system in Florida.

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