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.
Voting for person over party sounds good but is in fact bad. Why? Because partys have to stand for things like pro life or pro choice. Candidates will tell you what you want to here to get your vote. This appears aimed at far right. In the short term it is ;but in long term it is aimed at militant hispanic democrats taking over the democratic party. Sen. kavenaugh I have a part for you in a scene I will be making to get financing for my movie. We need some anti-immigrant arizona state militiamen biker extras who get to shoot the little illegal alien children as they sit on the road singing my country tis of thee.
Not letting voters know the party affiliation also gives incumbents an advantage when voters know little or nothing about either candidate because in elections, name recognition matters.
You have put your finger on one of the biggest problems with casting an informed vote. I am unceasingly frustrated because there are always people on the ballot whose name I do not recognize and about whom I know nothing. Trying to find out where they stand on any issue is nearly impossible.
I don’t think that limiting the vote to the top two is going to make that any easier at the level where this confusion occurs. These people will still remain largely unknown and unaffiliated, and the mystery about for whom I should vote will remain.
Yeah, that’s why party labels help. They give you an idea of where a politician might stand. Most candidates don’t have an abundance of money to inform everyone in whatever jurisdiction they’re running for of their platform. The further down ballot they are the less people know and the fewer people vote for those spots.