Here we go again . . . The Arizona Republic, whose editors advocated for former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson’s “Top Two Primary” Proposition 121 in 2012 — which was overwhelmingly rejected by voters 67-33% — are giving space in the editorial pages to Johnson and his cohorts for their second ballot measure attempt being planned for 2016, this time a “Top Two Primary” that requires “non-partisan” elections. “Death to political parties!”
Today’s “As I See it” op-ed from Jacqueline Salit, author of “Independents Rising” and president of IndependentVoting.org, boldly declares “My message to Hillary, woman to woman, is this. If you are not prepared to challenge your own party to fight for voter freedom for all the American people, then you shouldn’t be president. And that goes for Jeb and Bernie and Carly and Rand and Marco and Martin and the rest.” Are voting rights for all voters? Let’s ask Hillary.
In other words, if a candidate does not support her agenda for “non-partisan” elections, “fuck ’em.”
Ms. Salit posits that “what was telling about Hillary’s roaring rhetoric (she’s a feminist, we’re going to hear a lot of roaring) is what was missing from it: the rights of independent voters and the need to reform the primary system to make it inclusive and nonpartisan. Without addressing those issues, her voting rights appeal is, in effect, a form of voter fraud.”
Ms. Salit clearly does not know the meaning of the term “voter fraud,” i.e., a voter who is either ineligible to register to vote or to cast a vote, who nonetheless casts a ballot unlawfully in an election. This has nothing at all to do with what Ms. Salit describes. She is bastardizing the term “voter fraud’ to suit her agenda.
Ms. Salit’s actual complaint is that “independents” cannot vote in the political parties’ presidential primaries, which are closed primaries. Ms. Salit has little regard for the First Amendment right of freedom of association: “There can no longer be any doubt that freedom to associate with others for the common advancement of political beliefs and ideas is a form of ‘orderly group activity’ protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. . . . The right to associate with the political party of one’s choice is an integral part of this basic constitutional freedom.'” Kusper v. Pontikes, 414 U.S. 51, 56 -57 (1973). Funny how Ms. Salit fails to acknowledge this “basic constitutional freedom.” Her selfish desire to “crash the party,” so to speak, is more important than basic constitutional freedoms.
In Arizona, “independents” can vote in the political parties’ primaries for all other offices, all they have to do is to request a ballot for the party of their choice. Yet “independents” routinely fail to vote in party primaries — and general elections as well. This is their own fault, for which they will accept no blame.
Their excuse for lack of civic engagement is that they “dislike both political parties.” They fail to understand or to accept that it is their own lack of civic engagement and participation in a political party that produces the candidates that appear on the ballot. When one fails to participate, one leaves it to those who do to make the decisions for them. As Woody Allen said, “Showing up is 80 percent of life.”
“Independents” have been mythologized by media villagers. I have addressed this previously. Media Villagers believe in unicorns: the ‘independent’ voter panacea:
[T]he media villagers’ theory is complete bunk. It has been debunked by political science. Sorry media villagers, ‘independents’ are not nonpartisan or centrists:
Over the years I have posted about political science studies which demonstrate that “independent” voters are actually partisan “leaners.”
Data from the American National Election Study analyzed by political science professor Alan I. Abramowitz of Emory University showed that in 2008, independents made up 40 percent of eligible voters, but only 33 percent of those who actually voted. Only 7 percent of the total voted as true independents with no party preference. The other indies were clearly “leaners” for one party or the other. ‘Swing’ voters remain partisan – Chicago Tribune.
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John Sides at the Washington Monthly’s Ten Miles Square tries, once again, to correct this media disinformation. Independents Are Mostly Partisans, Chapter Gazillion:
Here are a couple graphs for the next time you hear that the “independents are the largest group of American voters” and some species of “to appeal to this vast number of independents you have to take moderate positions.” Graphs are courtesy of the new Pew Center report (p.28 and 98 of the pdf):
First, most independents lean toward a party:
You can see that only 12% of respondents did not identify with or lean toward a party in the most recent survey.
Second, independents who lean toward a party have not differed much from partisans on key political values:
I can tell you from personal experience from working voter registration and candidate booths this year that an unusually large number of “No Party Preference” (NOP) voters told me “I didn’t know I could vote in the primary election.” This is partly the fault of low information voters, but it is also the fault of our Secretary of State and County election directors not doing enough public service announcements to educate NOP voters of their right to vote in party primary elections.
The larger point is that NOP voters, wrongly identified as “Independent” voters by the media villagers, are actually “Leaners” who will choose the party ballot in the primary election for the party with which they identify (lean).
So the excuse that “I have to choose one party’s ballot; I’d rather pick and choose from all of the candidates” does not wash. This represents a tiny number of NOP voters who would actually take the time to vote in a primary election. (Secretary of State Ken “Birther”Bennett estimates that fewer than 10 percent of “independents” will bother to show up for the late-August primary election. Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne put the “independent” turnout in 2012 at just 7 percent.)
While Jacqueline Salit never directly mentions the “top two primary” in her op-ed, she references in her bio that she is “working with a multi-faceted coalition in Arizona to give voters the opportunity to choose a non-partisan election system in 2016.” She is affiliated with former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson, who is featured in a graphic at her web site IndependentVoting.org.
So let’s cut to the chase. I posted earlier this year, Real solutions, not top two primary snake oil:
I have posted at length about the political science studies and election results which demonstrate that the the top two primary fails to deliver on the promises made by its proponents. It is snake oil being sold by political flimflam artists.
- California’s experiment with the ‘top two’ primary was an epic failure
- Ivory tower political theory meets cold hard reality: the false premise of the ‘top two primary’ system
- The Arizona Republic shills for the Open Elections/Open Government Initiative
- Washington state’s Top Two primary results (federal)
- Sorry E. J., the Top Two Primary is still a bad idea
- California’s ‘top two primary’ fails to deliver on utopian promises
- Arizona does not need California’s ‘top two’ primary
Arizona voters wisely rejected Prop. 121 by a 2-1 margin in 2012, and will do so again in 2016, if necessary, because they are smarter than the flimflam artists give them credit.
So to former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson and his “braintrust,” here’s the deal: you can forever be remembered as political flimflam artists, or you and your “braintrust” can abandon this damn fool idea and put your time, effort and money to more productive use and support election reform ballot measures that will, in fact, have a tremendous positive effect and transform politics in Arizona. The choice is yours. This should be a no-brainer.
Earlier this year I posted A challenge to voting rights organizations for a package of ballot measures . . .
These four ballot measures will do more to improve elections and voter turnout in Arizona than any damn fool idea for a “top two primary” and non-partisan elections.