An open partisan coalition of political parties and grassroots organizations succeeded by a 2-to-1 margin in its defeat of Arizona ballot measure Proposition 121, ironically dubbed the Open Government / Open Elections Act on Election Day.
The coalition formed this year to stop the heavily-funded Open Government Committee from getting the top-two primary measure passed. The following organizations united in the effort to defeat the measure: Arizona Republican Party, Arizona Democratic Party, Arizona Libertarian Party, Arizona Green Party, Free & Equal Elections Foundation, Save Our Vote Arizona, Fair Vote Arizona, Arizona Advocacy Network, and League of Women Voters of Arizona.
Barbara Klein, president of League of Women Voters of Arizona stated, “We are pleased with the defeat of top-two in Arizona. Despite claims that those who opposed top-two did so to retain power, that was not our motive. We respect parties as a vehicle to voters, but basically just respect the right of all voters. Top-two would have limited choice in general elections, encouraged more behind-the-scenes bargaining in primaries and eliminated the voices of all third parties and independent candidates in the general election. We support a better solution – ranked choice voting (aka instant runoff voting or proportional representation) – as a way to elect the overall favorites and treat all voters equally.”
Most of Arizona’s newspapers had endorsed the measure. Leading up to the big day, the Open Government Committee worked overtime robocalling Arizonans in a final attempt to sell their undemocratic top-two primary system.
“What was especially impressive was the magnitude by which the opposition won — a 2-to-1 margin,” stated Warren Severin, chairman of the Libertarian Party of Arizona. “When this happens, it wasn’t because one group made all the effort. This worked because the libertarians, greens, and other parties banded together with grassroots organizations. While it’s easy to get discouraged by the financial support of bad ballot measures, open party coalitions can make it happen. Other states should look at this — form the coalition, it can be beaten.”
In an effort to openly discuss the measure across party lines, Free & Equal hosted a panel discussion on Arizona’s top-two primary ballot measure at The Goldwater Institute in Phoenix on October 9, 2012. Had it passed, the proposition would have empowered the incumbent stranglehold, wiped out third parties and independents, and enabled private interests to control Arizona elections and voters’ choices.
“The Open Government Committee’s reverse psychology game on Arizonans didn’t work, and I commend Arizona voters for shutting this measure down,” stated Christina Tobin, founder and chair of Free & Equal Elections Foundation. “Free & Equal was proud to be part of the coalition uniting against the measure, and we will continue our nationwide efforts to stop top-two primaries from spreading to other states.”
About Top Two Primaries
A top-two primary is an election in which party labels appear on the ballot, but parties do not nominate candidates. Instead, the candidates choose their own ballot label. All candidates run in the primary, but only the top-two vote-getters appear on the ballot in the November general election. The system is currently used in Louisiana, Washington State, and California.