Prop 121’s dirty little secret
By Clint Bolick, director of the Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation
While most voters are focused on the national election, Arizona voters need to pay careful attention to a ballot measure that could imperil freedom in our state.
Its backers acknowledge that their goal is to produce more moderate elected officials — that is, fewer conservatives.
They accomplish that by abolishing party primaries and replacing it them with a single primary in which anyone can run and everyone can vote. Sounds good.
But then, only the top two candidates proceed to the general election. No one else — no independents, no third party candidates — can gain access to the general election ballot. The idea is that the more moderate candidate emerging from the primary will win.
The dirty little secret is that in many instances, voters in the general election will be limited to a choice between two Democrats or two Republicans. In California, which implemented the “top-two” system this year, both candidates will be from the same party in one out of every five congressional districts.
That will happen frequently when more candidates from one party compete in the primary, thus dividing the vote. In Arizona’s new 9th congressional district, which has a slight Republican registration edge, Republican Vernon Parker will face off against Democrat Kyrsten Sinema this fall in a classic conservative/liberal contest. But if the top-two system was in place, Sinema would be facing off in November against David Schapira, another liberal Democrat who received the second-most primary votes, which would be no choice at all for the hundreds of thousands of independents, Republicans, and people registered in other parties.
In 2014, if more Republicans than Democrats run for governor and divide the primary vote, we could be limited to a choice between two Democrats in the general election–in a state with more Republicans than Democrats! The perversities go on and on and will afflict both parties.
But because Arizona is a conservative state, the net result will be to move our state to the left. At a time when our state’s sovereignty is all that stands between us and an ever-growing federal government, we can ill afford a system designed to sabotage our freedom spirit.
Proposition 121 is complex. Please take time to explain it to your friends who may be taken in by the benign-sounding rhetoric being used by its supporters.