Posted by AzblueMeanie:
I posted about this some time ago with my list of ill-conceived reforms. Goo-Goos Gone Bad:
No, not the Goo-Goo Dolls. "Goo-Goos" is a shorthand acronym for "good government" activists. These single-minded good government crusaders exist on both sides of the political spectrum.
On the left they tend to be utopian idealists: "can't we all just get along and live together in peace and harmony?" They play on the sunny side of the street.
On the right they invariably tend to be one of the "Three R's": regressive, repressive or retaliatory. It is all about maintaining their perceived economic or political advantage. They play on the dark side of the street.
The latest entry in Goo-Goos gone bad comes from the "left." It is an initiative called the Open Elections/Open Government Act which would institute a "top two primary" in Arizona. Media villagers tend to love this kind of thing, and several have already written favorable opinions. They are wrong, per usual.
A frequent justification cited is that "California recently adopted it," to which I would reply that all bad ideas for reforms begin in California (Prop. 13, Prop. 187, etc.) This is not a strong selling point for me.
Tucson Attorney Si Schorr and former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson recently had an opinion published in the Arizona Daily Star as co-chairs of the Open Elections/Open Government Act. Both men are smart enough to know better. Open Elections would improve representation, reduce hyperpartisanship (excerpt):
Can this process become a permanent part of the Arizona landscape? Yes, with the passage of the Open Elections/Open Government Act that we are working to put before Arizona voters in 2012.
The Open Elections/Open Government Act would do away with the current primary elections in Arizona in which only a limited number of voters participate and are only permitted to cast ballots for the partisan candidates from one party. In its place there would be a primary election open to all voters and all candidates. The top two candidates from that election - regardless of political party-would then face off in the November general election.
No longer would a primary election exist in which Democrats and Republicans choose nominees, while Independent voters are largely left out. All voters, regardless of their political party, would be free to cast their ballot for the candidate of their choice.
Since all candidates would compete against each other in the open primary seeking the support of Democrats, Republicans and independent voters, candidates would be forced to address issues of importance to all, not just those in their respective parties.
The result would be that every voter would be permitted to vote in every election. Voters would have real choices, with candidates who better represent all the people of Arizona rather than just the political parties and extreme views of narrow interests. More open-minded candidates guided by common sense, instead of extreme ideology from either side of the political spectrum, would run for office.
This citizen initiative will require approval by a majority of voters casting a ballot next November. To place the initiative on the ballot, the signatures of more than 250,000 Arizona voters will be required. We already have more than 70,000 signatures toward this goal.
The unintended consequence of the "top two primary" is that it actually reduces the number of candidate choices available to voters at the general election, when far more people are casting their ballots. How is this a good thing?
Minor parties with few resources and little organization and membership like the Libertarian Party and the Green Party would no longer appear on the November ballot because they will have been soundly defeated in the primary election. The right to cast a protest vote by voting for a minor party candidate is a right which ought to be preserved and protected.
This is also true for the two major political parties. With the recent nuclear war over redistricting in Arizona and the creation of "safe" districts by political party registration, the "top two primary" would disenfranchise voters in "safe" districts in the general election where the only choices will be either two Republicans or two Democrats. The right to cast a protest vote by voting for the candidate of my political party registration, even if that candidate cannot win due to lopsided voter registration for the other major political party in my district, is a right which ought to be preserved and protected.
Finally, a lot can happen between the primary election in August and the general eelction in November. In 2010 we had one candidate running for the Corporation Commission die before election day, and several sham Green Party candidates recruited by Republican Party operative were involved in a poliical scandal. In fact, political scandals and candidate gaffes frequently have been decisive in the November general election. Having multiple party candidates on the ballot gives voters a better choice than having to say "Oh well, I guess I have to vote for the other guy."
This is a bad idea which should not appear on the ballot, and should not be approved by voters if it does.
I would propose an alternative which I have been promoting for years with no success because incumbents will not approve it -- the "none of the above" option on the ballot. Instead of limiting voters' options like the 'top two primary" does, this actually increases voters' options by giving them the choice to say they do not like any of the candidates and to start over with a special election. Be honest, how often have you wished that you had this option on your ballot?
It is true that in states which have the "none of the above" option on the ballot, it has been exceedingly rare when this option has received the most votes, almost entirely at local level elections. It is primarily an opportunity for voters to cast a protest vote. And that is a right which ought to be encouraged. If "none of the above" finishes second to the eventual winner, this tends to chasten that candidate's behavior in office and makes him or her more responsive to their constituents. And isn't that what we want to encourage?