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In this blog I and multiple commenters have broached the subject of the suspect constitutionality of PSPRS' replacement of the old perma...

Sunday, October 14, 2012

California Dreaming: Why Arizonans should vote NO on Proposition 121

Yesterday I received the Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona (PFFA) endorsement guide.  PFFA President Tim Hill's introductory letter explains PFFA's rationale for its endorsements and urges members to vote in November.  In addition to this standard verbiage, he also takes the opportunity to give a pitch for Proposition 121, the Open Elections/Open Government Initiative (aka "Top Two" Initiative).

Proposition 121seeks to eliminate partisan primaries and allow all voters, regardless of party, to vote in a single primary.  The two candidates receiving the most votes would advance to the general election, even if they belonged to the same party.  Californians passed a similar referendum, Proposition 14, in 2010.

Ostensibly this would appear to be a good idea, which allowed all voters, including independents, to pick the two candidates they like best.  Ideally, candidates would be forced to appeal to the greatest number of voters along the political spectrum in order to push themselves into the top two slots.  However, elections do not work under ideal conditions.

California's Proposition 14 is currently in effect and has already produced a situation in which a heavily Democratic district will have two Republicans candidates on the general ballot because four Democratic candidates split the vote to the point that none of them got enough to be in the top two.  This would not appear to be the wishes of the voters in this district.  However, this will most certainly be the last time something like this happens in this California district because future primaries will have no more than two Democratic candidates on the ballot.

Therein lies the problem with California Proposition 14 and Arizona Proposition 121.  These types of referenda will end up limiting voter choices by forcing parties to coalesce around a single candidate in an evenly split district or a pair of candidates in a district dominated by one party.  If a party runs too many candidates, they risk the possibility of having none of them on the general election ballot.  Someone will have to pick the one or two candidates on the primary ballot, and it will be party leaders, not voters.  This is redolent of the proverbial smoke-filled rooms of politics past where party bigwigs hand-picked candidates for office.  Instead of reducing the power of political parties, it will actually enhance it. (Note: according to this October 9, 2012 Arizona Republic article, Proposition 121 would create a 'top 2' primary in Arizona, the Arizona Republican party is officially opposed to Proposition 121, while the Arizona Democratic party has not officially taken a position, but has expressed reservations about it.)

Furthermore, the ability to disrupt primaries through the entry of bogus candidates to split an opposing party's votes will further turn primaries into a farce.  The other beneficiary of Proposition 121 will be special interests, who will exert more influence in the selection of primary ballot candidates and see a reduced slate of viable candidates.

Mr. Hill writes that Proposition 121 "will do more to moderate our state than anything we have ever seen," but moderation is neither the goal nor the purpose of elections in Arizona or anywhere else.  Elections express the will of the people, a noble goal in and of itself.  Proposition 121 will limit the choices of voters and put more power in the hands of political parties and special interests.

Vote NO on Proposition 121.

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