EDITORIAL October-Nov 2012 Proposition 121

Iím CAVE MANager Paul Lotsof.  I think that nearly everyone knows about primary and general elections and how they work in a partisan election.   A candidate for public office decides if he or she wants to run as a Republican, a Democrat or run on some minor partyís ticket like the Green Party.   The candidate files the necessary papers and ends up competing in a primary election.  Voters who are affiliated with the candidateís party then select that partyís nominee in the primary election.   A couple months later there is a general election featuring the nominees of all the parties.

If you are registered as a Republican you vote in the Republican Primary.  If you are a Democrat you vote in the Democratic Primary.  In Arizona if you register to vote as an Independent you can pick whatever primary you like.   And thatís why over a million Arizona voters are registered as Independents.   Thatís how itís worked for a long time.

In the November sixth election there is a proposal to amend the Arizona Constitution to make a tremendous change in our election process.   If Proposition 121 passes there wonít be any more Republican or Democratic Primaries except for the office of President of the United States.  Instead of each party having its own primary, all the candidates will run in the same primary.  So all the Republicans and all the Democrats, Greens and Libertarians for each office will be grouped together in the same primary election.   A couple months later the top two candidates for each office will face each other in the General Election.

The obvious question is who favors these changes and for what reason.    In Arizona the main proponents of the change are people who think that this state is run by nut jobs from the far right faction of the Republican Party.   Those who favor reform think that the so-called ďopen primaryĒ system would have a moderating effect and give us public officials who are more mainstream in their thinking.   Needless to say, most of those who like Proposition 121 are liberal Democrats.   The leadership of the Arizona Republican Party are nearly unanimous in their opposition to 121.

Let me give you a possible scenario of what could happen if 121 passes:   Letís say that there are six Republicans who want to be Governor of Arizona.   And letís say that there are two Democrats.   All eight candidates  square off in the open primary.  The Republican vote is split six ways while the Democratic vote is split only two ways.   The two Democrats win the open primary and in the November general election the voters get to pick one of the two Democrats.   All six Republican candidates are out of the running even if the voters are overwhelmingly Republican.

Nobody can question that Proposition 121 is a game changer.   It all but destroys the smaller parties and it reduces the power of the major parties too.    It also makes the Primary Election just as important as the General Election.  If 121 passes and youíre used to sitting out the Primary and just voting in the General you better change your habits.
The biggest problem with the Open Primary is the fact that its effects are hard to predict.  If it would definitely have  a moderating effect on Arizonaís Government Iíd tend to favor it.   To me the open primary  seems like a risky venture into uncharted waters.   The present system of partisan primaries may leave a lot to be desired but we have a hundred years of practical experience with it and we know what it does.    Proposition 121 might make things better and it might make things a lot worse.  My inclination is to stick with a known quantity and vote no on Proposition 121.

Iím CAVE MANager Paul Lotsof and the opinions youíve just heard are mine and not necessarily anyone elseís.   If youíd like a copy of this editorial or youíd like to express your opinions, go to the CAVE web site and click on Editorials.  Weíre at CAVEFM.com.   Thatís CAVEFM.com