PHOENIX — Voters will get to decide in November if they want to jettison the current system of nominating candidates for office.
In a brief order today, the Arizona Supreme Court rejected arguments by foes of the Open Government initiative that a trial judge should have given them more time last week to present evidence that many of the petitions were circulated by felons or others who had no legal right to seek signatures. That would have invalidated enough signatures to leave Proposition 121 short of what it needed to qualify for the ballot.
Justice Scott Bales, writing for the court, acknowledged that Maricopa County Superior Court Judge John Rea allotted only four hours for the case, with each side given equal time. But he noted that attorney Mike Liburdi, who represents the Save Our Vote Committee which challenged the petitions, never objected ahead of time to that schedule.
Bales also pointed out that Rea, in hurrying the case along, was under a deadline of his own: Maricopa County election officials saying they needed to send the ballots to the printer the following day.
"The trial court did not deny Save Our Vote due process under the circumstances of this expedited election litigation,'' Bales wrote.
Today's ruling likely reflects the absolute last legal word in the case. That means opponents of the measure now have to convince voters to reject it.
Under the current system, candidates for statewide, legislative and county supervisor posts are nominated in partisan primaries. Then each party's candidates face off in the general election.
This change, if approved in November, would have all candidates for each office run in a single primary regardless of party affiliation. Then only the top two vote-getters would advance to November, even if it turned out that both are from the same party.
Proponents contend that requiring candidates to seek broad support in a primary, versus just the backing of party faithful, will result in the nomination of people with more centrist views. But opponents argue that there are legitimate reasons to have only party members decide who should be their nominees.
Read more in tomorrow's Star