Tag Archives: top two primary

California’s ‘Top Two Primary’ (Jungle Primary) on Tuesday is a warning for Arizona

Jonathan Bernstein writes at Bloomberg View about California’s “Top Two Primary” on Tuesday. California’s Election Calamity:

StopTop2California voters are set to vote in their primary on Tuesday, and will suffer the consequences of a serious self-imposed mistake in how they run their state. No, it has nothing to do with the presidential race. The disaster is its “top two” system, in which the candidates for state offices — regardless of party — go on to compete in the general election in November if they finish first and second in the primaries.

The likely perverse result? Voters in November will probably have a choice between two Democrats for an open U.S. Senate seat.

The motivation for the California system was to elevate more moderate politicians than the parties were producing on their own. In practice, at least in the first two election cycles since the change was carried out, the results have not matched reformers’ hopes. Candidates have not been more moderate.

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Didn’t see that coming, but it’s not surprising

dark money
Photo illustrating Laurie Roberts’ column. Dark, so dark!

While I was at the office this afternoon a friend dm’d me on Facebook with the news that the “Open and Honest Coalition”, the campaign spearheading two separate initiatives involving reining in dark money (good!) and changing the election system to one where a “jungle” primary would produce two, and only two, candidates for every spot in the general election (bad!), was suspending its paid signature-gathering operations due to funding drying up.

A possible explanation, per Laurie Roberts of the Arizona Republic, follows:

The dark money initiative and open primary initiative aren’t dead yet, supporters insist, but if not, they’re clinging to life by a thread. Continue reading

What open Presidential primaries are teaching us about “independent” voters.

sam kelley
Shameless plug again: I’ll be on the air with Sam and Mel Young from 3 to 5 on Friday!

I keep thinking back to Monday’s Sam Kelley radio show (shameless plug: I’m on every Friday from 3 to 5pm!) and his guest, Patrick McWhorter of the Open and Honest Coalition, which is behind the Top Two primary initiative expected to be on the ballot this November.

McWhorter told Kelley that when he was the head of the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits, he grew increasingly frustrated with many state legislators, whom he described as highly ideological and difficult to work with. McWhorter cited this experience as a motivation for him to work on the Top Two primary campaign. He reiterated the claim that Top Two people often make, that candidates in a jungle primary will have to appeal to “everyone”. When asked by Sam about the prospect of two candidates of the same party making it to the general election (when the large majority people actually come out to vote) and, thus, being the only choices those voters have, McWhorter brushed the concern aside breezily with “they might be two very different Republicans!”

McWhorter’s belief that having more “independents” voting in primaries leads to more moderate (by his definition) candidates doesn’t seem to be holding up with the Presidential primaries, where several states allow voters who don’t belong to either major party to vote for a Presidential candidate. New Hampshire held its primary recently and, in a state famous for the large number of “independents” who participate in it, the two winners were Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Both candidates won with substantial support of “independent” voters.

Now, let me be clear that I’m not drawing a specious false equivalence – as many have – between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. The former is a longtime respected member of Congress who is running for President on real policy proposals and is a good person, the latter is bigoted pond scum with a combover. But to the people who are behind the Top Two effort, both Sanders and Trump would be equally unacceptable radical choices as, say, candidates for the Arizona Legislature. But they are who the “independents” who turned up to the New Hampshire primary favored as Presidential candidates. (While I’ll note that by raw vote the top two vote-getters were Sanders and Clinton, the vast majority of her votes from Democratic partisans, not “independents”.)

Analyst Clare Malone at FiveThirtyEight believes that “independents” matter little, if at all, to the outcomes of primaries. That’s certainly been the case with the open primaries we already have in Arizona in state elections, where a non-partisan voter may simply request a ballot for the partisan primary they wish to vote in. But we’ll see in the upcoming Presidential primaries.

As it stands for Super Tuesday, where eight of the ten states holding Presidential preference elections have open primaries, polling in those eight states shows Trump with a lead in four, in a virtual tie with Cruz in one, and Cruz with a lead in two on the Republican side. Open primaries don’t seem to be helping John Kasich, the guy largely seen as “moderate”* there. On the Democratic side Clinton leads in six open primary states (most in the South) and Sanders leads in Vermont and Massachusetts, as expected. So it looks like minimal impact by “independents” there.

*Of course, John Kasich is NOT a moderate by any stretch but is deftly parlaying his rare moments of decency, such as accepting the Medicaid expansion in the Affordable Care Act, and a gruff irascible exterior that press people swoon over into a big distraction from awful and radical he really is. Do not be fooled, liberals!

Top Two primary gets some much-needed push back on Phoenix radio

sam kelley

For those who don’t know already, I do the Sam Kelley Show every Friday from 3 to 5pm on 1480am KPHX Phoenix (shameless plug). But Sam does the show five days a week and on Monday encouraged me to call in because Patrick McWhorter, the communications guy for the so-called Open and Honest Coalition would be interviewed in the second hour. These are the people bringing us the ill-advised Top Two Primary initiative, which would limit voters’ choice in November general elections to two, and only two, candidates for each office, both of whom could be from the same party or otherwise ideologically similar. In other words, it will “work” by effectively disenfranchising a large percentage of voters in practically every election.

And that’s ironic since the main argument of the Top Two people is that all these poor “independent” voters are being disenfranchised in the primary elections because they can’t vote in them. Oh wait…they can vote in them by simply requesting a ballot for the primary they want to vote in or, if it’s the quadrennial Presidential Preference Primary, briefly re-registering as a member of a party*. Continue reading

Diligent voters are now the “angriest mob”, per Paul Johnson

Crossposted from DemocraticDiva.com

johnson top two
Paul Johnson, Open and Honest Coalition

It used to be, not long ago, that voters who never missed any election were known as “good citizens”. But as the country has become more polarized and increasingly ungovernable, thanks entirely to one party (the GOP) being overtaken completely by rabid reactionaries, there is an increasing tendency by the Serious People to blame the voters for what they sat back and allowed to happen for decades*. This has certainly been the strategy of the people behind the Open “Primary”** initiative (AKA Top Two) in Arizona, which is currently getting signatures for the 2016 ballot.

The Arizona Republic has relentlessly promoted Top Two for years now, running numerous favorable articles and editorials on it since the first version (which failed) was introduced in 2012. Last Saturday, there was this softball interview with former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson, a main backer of the initiative.

Why did the Open and Honest Coalition form?

The existing system discriminates against the 1.2 million voters who choose to not affiliate with a party, the largest group in Arizona. All taxpayers pay for primary elections, but independents are barred as candidates from those ballots and forced to choose a party ballot which they have already chosen to reject. Arizona had a 30-year record-low voter turnout in 2014 because voters aren’t given the freedom of choice. Continue reading

Top Two Primary intends to demolish Democrats in AZ

Crossposted from DemocraticDiva.com


As I drove home Wednesday evening I caught the tail end of a recorded segment on the radio about the Top Two Primary initiative. I heard a man telling KJZZ host Steve Goldstein (I’m paraphrasing) about how Democrats have little power in state government so Hispanic voters would do well to stop aligning themselves with them. I rolled my eyes and continued on but I saw this summary of the interview when I got home:

Arizona’s Latino community is gravitating away from either major political party.

Those were the findings of a recent survey by an organization hoping to reform elections in the state.

About 40 percent of Latinos in Arizona are Independent, a trend that becomes even more pronounced among millennials. According to the survey, more than 75 percent of respondents said Latinos should register as Independent and eschew the established parties. This is good news for supporters of a ballot initiative that would allow independents to run in the primary.

Danny Ortega is a co-chair of the Open and Honest Elections Coalition.

He said Latinos, who were once loyal to democrats, are increasingly disillusioned with the party’s inability to make meaningful progress on immigration, education and other issues.

“They don’t see the party as effective, number one,” Ortega said. “Number two, every state office is controlled by Republicans. The legislature is controlled by Republicans, and so Latinos don’t feel like they are part of the end game.”

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