Editorial: State's primary election system needs revision
Originally Published: January 26, 2016 6:02 a.m.
According to a report in the Arizona Capitol Times, Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan wants to do away with the state's partisan presidential primaries.It's about time.The current system is unfair to independent voters, who aren't allowed to cast ballots in the Republican or Democratic primaries. Even though they aren't allowed to vote in the primaries, independents must help fund the elections. According the Secretary of State's office, the presidential primaries cost the state about $10 million, which comes out of the pockets of all Arizona taxpayers, not just the Republicans and Democrats.The political parties have every right to choose which candidates (or more precisely, the delegates who will choose the candidates) they want to run in the presidential elections. Think of them as private clubs whose card-carrying members are the only ones allowed to choose the club's officers. That's their right, but they shouldn't ask non-members to foot the bill for their private elections.Independents represent the largest bloc of voters in the state. According to data on the Secretary of State's website, Republicans have 1,105,521 registered voters, Democrats have 917,411, and the Libertarian and Green parties combined have 30,435. People who declared no party preference comprise the 1,201,030 remaining registered voters.Either independents should be allowed to participate in the presidential primaries, or the political parties should pay for their own elections.But it's not only the presidential primaries that should be changed. The state's legislative primaries should be changed as well. Independents are allowed to vote in the legislative primaries, but only if they declare for one party or the other.News of Reagan's quest to do away with the partisan presidential primaries coincides with an announcement by two well-known Arizona Democratic Party leaders - Terry Goddard and Paul Johnson - and Republican consultant Chuck Coughlin, that they are working on getting a measure on the ballot to change the primary system in state and municipal elections. The Open and Honest Elections Committee, as it's called, would like voters to approve a top-two primary system. Names of all candidates would be on one ballot, regardless of their party affiliation, and the top two vote getters would advance to the general election. The proponents say that not only would such a primary allow all voters to participate, it would force candidates to try to appeal more to the political center rather than voters on the far left or far right.Naturally, the political parties aren't too keen on the idea. The state's Republican leaders have already voiced their opposition to the idea. So far, the Democrats say they haven't had enough time to study the proposal, according to a story in Friday's (Jan. 22) Arizona Republic. Voters rejected a similar measure on the 2012 ballot, but since then the ranks of registered independent voters has grown. Perhaps it's time for the voice of the independents to be heard.- Jim Painter, news editorFollow Jim Painter on Facebook at FB.me/jimpainterprescott. Reach him at 928-445-3333, Ext. 2035, 928-642-0560 or firstname.lastname@example.org.