Decision 2012

Oct 24, 2012 8:17 PM

Prop. 121 would create a 'top two' open primary in Arizona

TUCSON - Arizona voters have a handful of important propositions to consider this election year, and one could change the way we vote.

If it passes, Proposition 121 would create an open primary, allowing all qualified voters, regardless of party affiliation, to vote in primary elections. Only the top two candidates would then move on to the general election.

The battle over 121 is a contentious one. Proponents say it will force politicians to stop pandering to their base.

Those opposed say it's a stake to the heart of minor parties and independents. "It's the biggest threat to our electoral system ever," said Christina Tobin, President of The Free and Equal Foundation.

Ron Shoopman, President of the Southern Arizona Leadership Council disagrees, "Right now we're in gridlock, open elections changes that," said Shoopman.

He believes Prop 121 will force politicians to be more inclusive. "A candidate must talk to more people because they have to become one of the top two vote getters in order to move to the general. That means more people are involved, it means the candidates hear from people other than those at the base of their party," Shoopman said.

Supporters also believe open elections will get more citizens involved in the process. Tobin isn't buying it. "They are lying, there's no facts whatsoever. It passed in Washington state, since it passed, there used to be tons of candidates running. Now there's three or four. No third parties, only two advanced to the general election," Tobin said.

Republicans, Democrats and all other minor parties have openly come out against Prop 121. Tobin says calling it an open election is a joke.

She says it closes the door on the smaller parties. "Third party and independents will cease to exist within two election cycles. That's why all the minor parties, even the major parties have come out against top two," Tobin said.

Shoopman disagrees. He says, given time, Arizonans will embrace the top two idea. "It takes awhile for people to become accustomed to a new approach, but I think as people begin to understand the importance of the primary system I think you'll see that turn around, " Shoopman said.

Similar measures have recently passed in Washington and California. Oregon voted against the open primary proposition.

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