Brewer, lawmakers show insecurity, contempt for voters

Our view: Plans for a special session, now scrapped, were an affront to Arizonans
2012-07-08T00:00:00Z Brewer, lawmakers show insecurity, contempt for voters Arizona Daily Star
July 08, 2012 12:00 am

Here's one way to measure if a proposal to change the political power structure would accomplish its goal: Watch how fast those who would be affected try to kill it.

Judging by the lightning-quick response from some Arizona lawmakers, the Open Government/Open Elections voter-initiative is potent.

Assuming the initiative makes it onto the Nov. 6 ballot - and that looks fairly certain, given that supporters have turned in more than 365,000 signatures from every county in the state, about 100,000 more than needed - voters could scrap the party-based primary-election system and replace it with a nonpartisan process in which every candidate runs in the primary and the top two vote-earners move on to the general election.

On Friday afternoon Gov. Jan Brewer was expected to call a special session so Republican lawmakers could place a competing measure on the Nov. 6 ballot. But by Friday evening her fellow Republicans made it clear her plan didn't go far enough and they wouldn't support it. The effort to confuse voters failed - for now - but not for lack of trying.

The open-primary supporters have been working for months, passing petitions and educating Arizonans about their proposal. Their ballot initiative is not a surprise.

Explanations about the lawmakers' timing, coming one day after the Open Government/ Open Elections supporters turned in their petition signatures, would be laughable were it not so obvious.

Legislators - specifically the Republican majority, which sets the agenda - managed to close out the regular legislative session without fixing a problem that suddenly became so monumentally urgent Brewer decided it required a short-notice special session called in July.

On Friday, when the special session still seemed viable, Brewer denied that she and lawmakers were trying to confuse voters - but Republican Sen. Frank Antenori, who came in third out of four candidates in the Republican primary for the Congressional District 8 special election, told the Arizona Republic that more than one ballot measure on the same topic confuses voters. And that's the point.

Ultimately, however, he and others decided not to support Brewer's plan, so no more need for a special session.

The effort to confuse voters by placing a competing measure on the ballot - if neither garners 50 percent of the votes, they both fail - was derailed not because elected officials decided to respect the choice of Arizonans, but because they couldn't agree on a competing proposal. The will to obstruct voters was there, the details were not.

Republican protestations that voters would be misled in an open-primary system are specious. Take, for example, the possible scenario, as outlined by House Majority Whip Debbie Lesko, R-Glendale.

"A conservative candidate could run in a Democratic-dominated district and call themselves whatever they want," she said. "It could be deceiving."

If Lesko seriously thinks that any candidate could keep up that level of ideological deception throughout an entire primary season, she gives politicians far more credit - and voters far less - than we do.

The number of voters registered as "independent" has increased in recent years, as they've abandoned entrenched political parties. Independents can vote in Arizona primaries, but they must chose a specific party ballot, which limits their choices of candidates. The open-primary system would change this, for all voters.

More than 365,000 registered voters across the state have said they want the opportunity to vote on the Open Government/Open Elections proposal. For lawmakers to try to come in now, in a transparent attempt to derail that effort, is an insult to every Arizonan.

Legislators who sought to muddy the issue and add their own primary proposal to the ballot are not concerned that the primary system doesn't work, but because it does work - for them.

We need an election system that works for the benefit of all Arizonans.

Brewer and the lawmakers who sought to monkey-wrench the open-primary ballot measure by confusing voters have revealed only their own insecurities.

Arizona Daily Star

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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