Arizona Secretary of State - Ken Bennett


 
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Proposition 121 - Video Transcript

Introduction

MODERATOR RICH DUBEK: Our next Proposition is Prop 121.

SECRETARY OF STATE KEN BENNETT: Thank you, Rich.

A "yes" vote on Proposition 121 will have the effect of replacing the current party primary elections with a top-two primary election in which all voters, regardless of party affiliation, vote in a single, combined primary, and the top two vote-getters for each seat advance to the general election ballot. This top-two primary will not apply to the election of the U.S. President or to the elections in which no party affiliation appears on the ballot.

A "no" vote will have the effect of keeping the current party primary elections in which each recognized political party selects a candidate to appear on the general election ballot.

MODERATOR RICH DUBEK: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. And this Proposition is getting a lot of attention.


"For" Arguments

MODERATOR RICH DUBEK: On the pro side of 121 is Mr. Paul Johnson, former Mayor of Phoenix, CEO of Southwest Next Investments, and Chairman of the Open Elections/Open Government Committee. Mr. Johnson, two minutes.

MR. PAUL JOHNSON: Thank you. You don't have to run a poll to know that large segments of the public are giving up on the two-party system. Through no organized effort whatsoever, we have over a third of the public in Arizona and across the United States that have given up on the two parties and have registered as Independents.

What our proposal does, Proposition 121, the top-two vote-getters, is it simply eliminates the partisan primary, and it replaces it with an open election, where all candidates run, where every candidate -- where every voter can vote for them, and the top two vote-getters go to the next level. It is simple in that it lets every voter vote in every election.

But what it also does is it helps us create real competition. What's happened through political gerrymandering, is our political system today in Arizona, we have over 26 districts out of 30 that have been gerrymandered to the point where they are considered to be safe districts. That means the voters have no real choice in four -- in any more than four or five of those legislative districts.

What this proposal does is it not only creates competition at the first level, in the primary, but also in the run-off by having the top-two vote-getters always face one another. Most importantly, though, today those candidates who are elected in those partisan primaries and then have no general election, end up having to face only a very narrow idealogic group of people. People who are ideological purists.

What that's done is it's created an incentive for candidates to not cross the aisle, to not work with people on the other side. What this measure does is by forcing them to talk to candidates -- or, talk to voters, who are both Independents and members of the other party, is it creates an incentive for them to do just exactly that, to cross the aisle and look for compromise.

I would encourage you to go to www.azopengov.org, take a look at the proposal. We hope you'll vote for it. Thank you very much.

MODERATOR RICH DUBEK: Thank you. Appreciate it.


"Against" Arguments

MODERATOR RICH DUBEK: And we do have somebody speaking against 121, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. Two minutes, sir.

MR. BILL MONTGOMERY: As an incumbent, I should like this initiative because it would make reelection easier. But Prop 121 is just the latest set of empty promises seeking to change how we conduct elections in Arizona, falsely claiming this would increase voter participation, result in better candidates, eliminate costs, and make for nicer elections.

Only four states have a system similar to the top-two free-for-all, and none of these promises have come true for them, including California, the latest to try this expensive scheme ripe for exploiting and confusing voters.

To put this initiative on the ballot, supporters had to spend over $1 million to pay for signatures, and in that process convicted felons fraudulently circulated petitions and misled voters about what they were signing, telling some people that the petition would save animals from being killed in shelters, or that by signing they would increase jail time for child molesters.

The reality is that this initiative will double the amount of money spent in primaries. California saw the amount spent double from $24 million to $46 million.

This initiative will eliminate diversity of candidates and choices for voters in general elections when it matters most. Because, regardless of how many candidates qualify for a primary from a party or as an Independent, you can only choose from two in the general election, even if the candidates are both from the same party. That is not how our democracy works. We need the diversity of opinions and voices to choose from in a general election, as we do now.

We will not see more voters participating. No state with this system or one like it has seen an increase in voter participation.
There is no guarantee of better candidates. No system can deliver on that promise, because it is up to voters to decide what kind of candidate they want, not a system trying to rig outcomes. There is no cost savings. We will still pay for primaries under a top-two free-for-all.

Lastly, a top-two free-for-all will not be like non-partisan city elections, because candidates in city elections do not have their party listed on the ballot. But the top-two free-for-all goes so far as to allow candidates to list themselves as members of the Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, or Pluto party. Likewise, this initiative is goofy.

Save our right to choose from more than just two candidates from the same party when it matters most, in the general election. Save our vote. Vote "no" on Prop 121.


Conclusion

MODERATOR RICH DUBEK: Thank you very much.

 
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KEN BENNETT
Arizona Secretary of State

© September 2012