Posted by Kellie Ryan on January 22, 2016 at 5:06 PM
Constitutional Amendments Would Fundamentally Change AZ Elections
(KFYI News) — Arizona's primary elections and the issue of "dark money" political spending would undergo radical changes if voters approve two proposed constitutional amendments.
A group calling itself the "Open and Honest Coalition" has filed paperwork with the Arizona Secretary of State's Office allowing it to launch a petition drive to get the two amendments on the November ballot.
One amendment would recognize that independent voters ("no party preference") are now the largest bloc of voters in the state at 36 percent. However, members of the Coalition say, independents are largely shut out of the process of determining which candidates will be on the general election ballot, and it's nearly impossible for them to get an independent candidate on the ballot.
The group proposes a single primary ballot that includes all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, instead of the current practice of each party having its own ballot.
The two candidates receiving the most votes in the primary – whether they be Republican, Democrat, independent, or another party – would advance to the general election ballot.
Coalition members say under the current system, the primaries have very low voter turnout, consisting mainly of a small army of party loyalists, who tend to hold more extreme political views than the population as a whole. Independents are allowed, by law, to vote in primary elections by requesting the ballot of a single party, but very few independent voters do so. As a result, Coalition members say, the general election tends to be a faceoff between opposing extremists nominated by a very small percentage of the electorate.
A single-ballot primary, supporters say, would likely result in more moderate candidates advancing to the general election, giving voters a more desirable choice.
A "top two primary" proposal was on the statewide ballot in 2012 but was soundly defeated.
This amendment would also equalize the number of signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. Chuck Coughlin, president and CEO of HighGround, Inc., uses the example of a county election in Maricopa County. He says an independent candidate currently needs to gather 28,000 petition signatures to get on the ballot, while a Republican or Democrat needs only 3,500 signatures.
The second proposed amendment would make political donations much more transparent by requiring disclosure of the original donor – not a "committee" that launders contributions – for each individual contribution of $10,000 or more.
Coalition members are optimistic that the amendments will qualify for the ballot and be approved, saying the changes will give many more independent voters a say in the electoral process than is currently the case.