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Vote yes on Prop. 121 – ‘Top Two’ primary elections

Who says there’s no such thing as bipartisanship any more? Why there has been an issue in Arizona this summer so controversial and so outrageous that we’ve even seen tripartisanship in which Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians teamed up to defeat this ravaging horror.

Yet despite this unprecedented level of cooperation among political foes they were unable to defeat their common enemy.

Yep. They lost. And so Arizonans will have the chance to decide whether unaffiliated voters – so-called independents – can have more say in choosing candidates for elected office.

Despite the best efforts of the state’s political parties and multiple lawsuits seeking to deny voters the chance to decide an issue about voting (how’s that for irony), the Arizona Supreme Court last week ruled that Proposition 121, the Open Elections/Open Government initiative, had enough qualifying signatures to be placed on the November ballot.

The measure would change the way Arizona conducts its primaries, dumping all candidates for office into the pool and letting voters sift through them. Those getting the most votes would advance to the primary at a number equal to double the number of open seats.

The law changes the primary process for all statewide and legislative offices, county and municipal races, including Tucson, and congressional races (school board elections remain the same with only a general election).

The intent of the law is to get more independents to vote in primaries. Under the current system, independents can only vote in primaries if they choose a single party’s ballot. That forces them to reattach themselves to political parties they have purposely detached themselves from, therefore, they don’t vote in primaries in very great numbers.

A third of state voters are independents. They are mostly moderates and so what’s left of the Republican and Democratic parties have become populated with zealous ideologues who relish banishing moderates from their parties almost as much as the enjoy beating the other party in elections.

The belief is that by letting more independents into the candidate-winnowing process, candidates will have to moderate their views rather than have hardcore conservative or uber liberal candidates rely on only like-minded party faithful turning out for the primary, setting up a general election with a far right candidate versus a far left candidate and leaving moderates not much of a choice.

Whether Prop. 121 will work as intended is unknown. This process is used in other states and primary elections still have low turnout, especially among independents.

But that’s not why voters should vote for it. They should vote for it because it strips the political parties of their power and puts it back in the hands of the voters. That’s why the parties fought so hard to keep it off the ballot.

The parties will still try to game the system if it passes, to be sure, but no matter how they try to manipulate who runs in the primaries, on election day all voters in a district rather than just a handful of party zealots will have an opportunity to have a say about who advances to the general.

And for that reason alone, you should vote yes on Prop. 121.

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