Craig McDermott and I have been debating Top Two Primary campaign director Patrick McWhortor in the comments section of Craig’s recent post (“Top Two” primaries: Propaganda vs. truth) about the lack of evidence that this type of reforms works to increase voter turnout. In one of McWhortor’s rebuttals he threw in the oft-repeated truism accepted as commonsense wisdom in much of the American public.

“If you believe that having a D by the name is an automatic “pass” or having a R by the name is an automatic “pass”, then of course this reform means nothing to you. But if you believe, as a majority of voters do, that they should vote for the person, not the party, then this reform makes complete sense.”

If the majority of voters really believe that then why is it that, without fail, just prior to every election day the Democratic Party HQ is swarmed with calls from voters frantically asking whom they should vote for in the “nonpartisan” races, such as school board and water conservation district? (I have no doubt our counterparts on the Republican side experience the same thing.) The answer to that is obvious: Without the party labels (loathed though they may be by many) voters will have exactly no information about most of the people running. Most of them will be familiar with who’s running for President and maybe Congress but not much else. I’m not just basing this on my own conversations at doors trying to get the vote out (one of the fiendish ways I work to destroy the country as an evil partisan monster!) but also on polling

The fact is that most Americans, Arizonans included, are not political junkies and aren’t up on the insider baseball stuff that the business establishment brain trust behind Top Two is. And the further down ballot candidates are, the fewer resources they will have to make broad personal appeals to voters. Voters may bitch about parties but they do rely on party labels to tell them what values candidates are likely to have. Absent those labels (which is the new version of Top Two proposes) there’s a lot of opportunity for people who do have considerable resources *cough*KochBrothers*cough* to buy up important local races by the barrelful.