Real solutions, not top two primary snake oil


Donna Gratehouse posted yesterday that “As promised, the brain trust of Arizona centrist business establishment types (country club Republicans and corporate Dems) that failed to pass Prop 121 in 2012 plan to return with a slightly altered version of it in 2016.” Top Two Primary is back, with twice the magical thinking.

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.


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:

I am issuing a challenge to these organizations to form a Grand Coalition to work together to enact a package of four voting rights ballot measures that will (1) increase voter registration, (2) increase voter turnout, and (3) prevent voter suppression efforts in the future.

Here are the four ballot measures that I have previously posted about over the years that I challenge these voting rights organizations to file and to qualify for the 2016 ballot:

Universal (Automatic) Voter Registration

On Monday, the state of Oregon became the first in the nation to enact universal (automatic) voter registration. It’s official: New Oregon law will automatically register people to vote:

The so-called “New Motor Voter Bill,” House Bill 2177, “will automatically register voters using information collected at the DMV.

Anyone eligible will be given an opportunity to opt out — but otherwise they become registered voters. The administration estimates that about 300,000 people will be added to the rolls, increasing the number of registered voters from 2.2 million to 2.5 million.

“I challenge every other state in this nation to examine their policies and find ways to ensure that there are as few barriers as possible in the way of a citizen’s right to vote,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) said at the signing ceremony on Monday.

One state ready to accept that challenge is Vermont, whose Secretary of State James Condos told ThinkProgress that an automatic registration system “just makes sense.” Oregon Will Start Automatically Registering Voters. Is Vermont Next?:

“Voter participation among millenials is critical going forward, and we need to find ways to get them more involved,” he said, noting that young men are still automatically registered for the draft unless they opt out. “If the Selective Service can do it, why can’t we?”

UPDATE: California SOS wants automatic voter registration for every eligible person.

From the 2012 election data: The Citizen Voting Age Population (CVAP) of Arizona according to Census data was 4,957, 376. The  number of registered voters eligible to vote (registered) in the general election was only 3, 124, 712. This represents a difference of 1,832,664 potential new voters who could be automatically registered and eligible to vote using Oregon’s new universal (automatic) voter registration system, if enacted in Arizona.

All-Mail Voting

The state of Oregon was also the innovator in all-mail voting. Oregon was the first state to institute it after a referendum in 1998. Washington followed in 2011 and Colorado soon after in 2013. All three states introduced all-mail locally and its popularity led to its widespread use before it became the standard ballot system.

Based upon data gathered by the United States Elections Project, the three states with all-mail systems have a recent history of consistently outperforming the U.S. turnout rate (which is usually pretty close to the average state turnout), especially during midterm elections.

In Arizona, early voting by mail-in ballot and the Permanent Early Voter List (PEVL) is so popular that it now exceeds more than 70 percent of ballots cast in most counties. It would not be a major change in current voter behavior to go to all-mail voting. The Oregon system retains “voting centers” on election day for those voters who want to maintain the ritual of voting on election day, so no voter is being deprived of traditional voting.

Constitutional Amendment to Move Statewide Office Elections to Presidential Election Years

Arizona has always had low voter turnout in comparison to other states, but the 2014 election was the lowest voter turnout since 1998, and 1942 during World War II before that. It is pathetic that our statewide elected officials are elected by a small minority of eligible voters in non-presidential election years. The vast majority of the Citizen Voting Age Population (CVAP) of Arizona does not even vote. No candidate can legitimately claim an electoral “mandate” for his or her agenda based upon the pathetically low voter turnout in Arizona. No democracy can be sustained this way.

Arizona nominally improves its voter turnout in presidential election years. Amend the Arizona Constitution to move the election of statewide elected offices to presidential election years so that at least a plurality of eligible voters, as opposed to a small minority of eligible voters, may elect statewide offices. Then maybe there will be some legitimacy to claiming an electoral “mandate.”

Constitutional Amendment to Declare The Right to Vote a Fundamental Constitutional Right

The “right” to vote is a privilege rather than a right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.The Arizona Constitution also does not secure a fundamental constitutional right to vote. So when our state legislature enacts laws to limit your right to vote, to limit access of minor party candidates to the ballot, and to limit your ability to bring citizens initiatives, referendums and recalls, the courts review these laws under the “rational basis” minimum standard of constitutional review.

If you want to prevent voter disenfranchisement and suppression efforts in the future, then amend the Arizona Constitution to declare, for example:

“A citizen’s franchise to vote is a fundamental constitutional right which shall not be denied without due process of law.  Any citizen deprived of the franchise to vote as the result of a criminal conviction by a court of competent jurisdiction shall have the  franchise to vote automatically restored upon completion of  any sentence, probationary period, and payment of restitution. The courts shall review all election laws under the strict scrutiny standard of constitutional review to determine whether the state has a compelling state interest for the enactment of any such law.”

This would guarantee the right to vote as a fundamental constitutional right, and court review of legislation affecting the right to vote would require the strict scrutiny standard of review. This would be a game changer in blocking future attempts by the GOP to disenfranchise voters or to suppress voter turnout.

So Mr. Johnson, we can either agree to work together to improve elections in Arizona, or if you insist on wasting your time, effort and money on this damn fool idea for a top two primary, I will work to defeat you, once again. What’s it going to be?

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AZ BlueMeanie
The Blue Meanie is an Arizona citizen who wishes, for professional reasons, to remain anonymous when blogging about politics. Armed with a deep knowledge of the law, politics and public policy, as well as pen filled with all the colors stolen from Pepperland, the Blue Meanie’s mission is to pursue and prosecute the hypocrites, liars, and fools of politics and the media – which, in practical terms, is nearly all of them. Don’t even try to unmask him or he’ll seal you in a music-proof bubble and rendition you to Pepperland for a good face-stomping. Read blog posts by the infamous and prolific AZ Blue Meanie here.


  1. In the short run this is sold as a way to prevent right wing conservatives who win the primary from winning the general election ;but in the long run as arizona turns blue it is to keep leftist democrats and militant hispanic from getting elected so they can’t pay the republicans back in kind. The rich old white men’s ego trip protection act!

    • You’re exactly right, Captain AZ, the real goal of this is to demolish progressives. That’s why they did it in CA and managed to bamboozle enough prominent Dems to back their measure so voters there would pass it. The business community wanted to replace progressive Dems with pro-fracking corporate sell-out ones. They have succeeded in some cases. And here in AZ Johnson, et al, don’t really care that much about the right wingers as they pretend to. Why should they? Big Business gets everything they want from people like Sylvia Allen. They really want to get rid of people like Ken Clark and Katie Hobbs, who sometimes vote against business interests.

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