Arizona Proposition Would Install California-Style Top-Two Election System

As noted on Reason 24/7 yesterday, third parties in Arizona are worried about Proposition 121, the “Open Elections/Open Government Act,” which would create a single primary for all candidates with the top two advancing to November. And then you have to pick between Kodos and Kang. The Tucson Sentinel reports the backers of the proposition say the system would encourage more “moderate” candidates. The proposition makes uniform the petition requirement for ballot access, lowering it for independent candidates while raising it for third parties.

California passed a similar proposition in 2010, after previously instituting an “open primary” system that forced the top two vote getters of the major parties on an open ballot to be the party’s candidates for the general election. The Supreme Court struck the system down in 2000, and California’s response was to strip the parties out all together in a “blanket” primary.  A study by the Public Policy Institute of California, however, found the situation bleak for third party and independent candidates under the new system, which came into effect this year; only eight made it to November ballot and the three third party candidates were all write-ins with no other competition but the incumbent.  The blanket primary also created competitive intraparty races in otherwise quiet districts. Such a race almost led to a fight in a debate last week.

Good thing your vote doesn’t count.

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  • tarran||

    Yes! Yes! Yes! Alienate people further from the system!

  • ||

    That's an awesome pic accompanying the article -- can someone find a link to it? Can't find the right google search ...

  • Enough About Palin||

    Why search Google when it's right at the top of this page?

  • ||

    So there was some time travel involved?

  • ||

    Top Two means you can vote in the primaries for the Libertarians on the ballot, and then do something productive or fun with your life for the general election.

  • ||

    I'm open to being conviced otherwise, but it seems to me that if ballot access requirements were the same for all (I realize that in neither CA nor in this AZ proposition they are not) an open no-party affiliation election with a run-off if no candidate got a clear majority would be the best for minor party candidates.

    And screw petitions. Use the British system of a cash deposit that you lose if you fail to get some percentage of the vote.

    Of course, an open list like this will mean that the illiterate voter, without a recognizable (R) or (D) next to tne names will actually have to know which of the candidates his party masters want him to select. Of course they might do what Australian voters (party names are not allowed on the ballot) do in fairly large numbers which is to pick the first name on the list.

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    Ya, I understand distrust of the idea on general principle that if they are doing it, it must be fucking us.

    But so far, I don't really see the downside. In places where there is already a duopoly, we aren't any worse off than before. In places where there is a monopoly, this way seems very slightly better.

    still a good picture though.

  • Robert||

    No, if you follow the link, you see that the petition requirement is the same for all candidates in Ariz., and I believe it is in Calif. as well. The candidate is allowed to state any party preference along with hir name, and the state is prohibited from using funds to run elections for party offices.

    This looks like a win for disestablishment of political parties. If minor candidates complain, tough. What reason is there for privileging them? It's effectively a nonpartisan election followed by a runoff between the top 2.

  • Robert||

    And in Calif. IIRC it was a considerable reduction in the petition signature requirement.

  • Jesus H. Christ||

    It's a disaster for California. It only helps to entrench the dominant political party, in my case, the dems.

  • Dr. Frankenstein||

    Does it or does it merely showcase that you're getting screwed by the dominant party which was true anyway.

  • Jesus H. Christ||

    Hard to say. We've got races now where the top two both come from the democrats. In fact, a couple of those dipshits nearly got in a fight. I suppose that has some entertainment value. And, one could suppose that a district that would choose two democrats as their top two candidates would never elect anyone from another party.

    It just seems like top two combined with the repeal of the super majority required to raise taxes etc, and the state is just in a colossal downward spiral.

  • ||

    There was an amusing story on the radio the other day how the two candidates for California State Senate Seat 15 are exactly the same except one supports Prop 30 (Governor Brown's tax increase measure) and the other supports Prop 38 (the other tax increase measure).

    Weren't such lame nondistinctions supposed to be washed out in the primary? Why yes, yes they were. Thank you so much California voters.

    Welcome to moderation, where your Democrats now must look even more Democrat than their Democrat rival.

  • Rhywun||

    the backers of the proposition say the system would encourage more “moderate” candidates

    Yes - because if there's one thing the electorate have been demanding in recent years, it's "more of the same, please!"

  • robc||

    I dont have a problem with this system, if ballot access is exactly equal and reasonably easy.

    How is a libertarian finishing 3rd in May any different than a libertarian finishing 3rd in November?

  • Robert||

    Exactly. And it surmounts the wasted vote problem. You can vote your conscience, and then still pick from between the 2 top contenders.

  • ||

    How is a libertarian finishing 3rd in May any different than a libertarian finishing 3rd in November?

    Six months more campaigning and far greater media coverage and public attention.

    I would have no problem with a December runoff of the top two from November, or with an IRV that did the same.

    My problem is that the state has usurped the parties' nomination process to run a general election, negating the parties themselves. This makes the minor parties irrelevant but also makes a major party that wants to be sure a candidate makes it to November go back into smoke filled rooms and buy off contenders. It's just awful.

  • Robert||

    The problem there is having such an early primary. Here in NY the primary's traditionally been 8 weeks before the gen'l election, although now it's complicated for federal elections because of a lawsuit over military ballots.

    In those western states with those ridiculously early primary dates being knocked out in a primary could be considered a benefit to candidates for not having to run another 6 mos. only to find out they were never in contention.

  • mb||

    It could be worse, they could be doing it to actually give you choice. Boston mayoral elections are a runoff from the democratic primary, because no other party EVER runs.

  • ||

    I vote for "tyranny". At least it's got an old-timey ring to it.

  • Paul.||

    And it's moderate, too!

  • Paul.||

    The Tucson Sentinel reports the backers of the proposition say the system would encourage more “moderate” candidates

    How could anyone who believes in democracy like this?

    "Moderate candidates"? By "Moderate" do we mean candidates more apt to keep the status quo vs. shake things up with real Hope and Change?

    Aren't candidates that offer real reforms considered "radical" regardless of what those reforms are?

  • Rhywun||

    That is exactly what they mean. It's just another incumbent protection racket, D's and R's scratching each other's back.

  • Paul.||

    A study by the Public Policy Institute of California, however, found the situation bleak for third party and independent candidates under the new system, which came into effect this year; only eight made it to November ballot and the three third party candidates were all write-ins with no other competition but the incumbent.

    Man I wish I could remember the thread, but I seem to remember some libertarians arguing that a top-two/blanket primary system was better for libertarians.

  • ||

  • Paul.||

    That may be it. I do see some people in there arguing that this will be a good thing for freedom and apple pie.

    Need to read more. I see you were part of that thread.

  • Paul.||

    Whoops, there's Tulpa arguing "what's the big deal"? Guy's such a serial contrarian.

  • Paul.||

    I like this one:

    Bryan C|6.3.10 @ 9:14PM|#

    On the other hand, the point of the exercise is to field and elect viable candidates. Not to provide an election-shaped soapbox for a multitude of alternative perspectives.

    That's funny, a week ago when I was trying to remember the thread, I suggested the whole thing came down to a on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand type of argument.

  • ||

    Ah, the naiveté:

    prolefeed| 6.3.10 @ 8:47PM |#

    This is a great idea. It means people will be more likely to vote their conscience in primaries, thus better revealing how many libertarian-leading people are out there.
  • James Anderson Merritt||

    Not THIS libertarian. I knew immediately what would happen if this proposition passed in California. I was very vocal about it in my own neck of the woods. I had to laugh when my local newspaper ran an editorial this past June, claiming that few people (including the newspaper's editorial board, apparently) understood the implications of the proposition before passage, and that, in approving the measure, voters (and their drovers in the press, apparently) were simply clutching at something, anything, to change our famously skewed electoral system for the better. Oops! Sorry!

    Of course, I had only been warning of the obvious consequences on the editor's own blogsite for weeks before the passage of the proposition (which he and his editorial board SUPPORTED at the time).

    They were warned. If they weren't listening then ... that only illustrates the danger of an idiot with a megaphone.

  • ||

    How about instead of a primary and a runnof we had instant-runoff voting.

    That would have the advantage of a built-in "literacy test" to disqualify those who were to stupid to "vote the quota." :)

  • Ed||

    the alt-text refers to that!

  • ||

    Actually, as far as legislative seats are concerned I would prefer to have multi member districts some form of proportional representation (though not party-list) While I for the Senate i would prefer that the Seventeenth Amendment was repealed and we went back to states choosing how Senators should be selected (though, to be fair, when the Seventeenth Amendment was passed a number of states already used the popular vote to select senators and it is quite likely that as we continue on to the fetish of majoritarianism that that trend would have continued, so it's not likely that would make much difference).

  • ||

    " multi member districts [with] some form of proportional representation

  • James Anderson Merritt||

    I like the idea of ranked choice voting, but simulations I have seen and the experience of SF up the road from me convince me that IRV itself isn't what we want. A condorcet vote-counting mechanism would be better. But either one would be open to use if we simply had ranked-choice ballots to start.

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