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Group Hopes To “Outlaw Partisan Primaries”

July 16, 2023

By Daniel Stefanski |

Arizona will be at the forefront of the presidential campaign come the 2024 general election, but there’s one contest that might take on more importance.

On Monday, Save Democracy Inc., an Arizona-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization, gave a preview of an election-oriented voter initiative that could be coming the state’s way in November 2024. They tweeted, “Coming Soon: A statewide initiative campaign aiming to outlaw partisan primaries.”

The post shared that this initiative would prohibit “the use of taxpayer funds to pay for private political party primaries; that all candidates (would) appear on the same ballot and compete under the same rules; and that all registered voters (would) use the same ballot to vote.”

Save Democracy Arizona’s website asks and answers the question, “Why do we need reform?” by alleging that “the current system is not working,” that “we need an even playing field,” and that “Arizona has a tradition of open elections.” On their home page, they write, “At a time when many Americans are concerned about the health of our election system, our coalition was formed to educate voters about how Arizona’s voting system currently operates. Join us as we explore alternative primary structures that could make our system work better for ALL Arizonans.”

The group’s efforts have already caught the eye of longtime Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts, who wrote a piece about the likely potential for action on this front. She tweeted, “Coming soon to a neighborhood near you: A statewide initiative campaign aiming to outlaw partisan primaries. Makes total sense here, in the state where independents now outnumber Republicans and Democrats.”

In her column, Roberts elaborated on what voters might see over the coming year, opining, “(This group) has scrapped plans for an initiative to bring ranked-choice voting to Arizona. Instead, it is preparing an initiative asking voters to outlaw taxpayer-financed partisan primary elections. The Legislature and Gov. Katie Hobbs would be directed to develop a new system that puts all candidates on one primary-election ballot. With one set of rules to get there.”

The Roberts’ piece grabbed the attention of Representative Austin Smith, who has been fighting against Ranked Choice Voting since the day he entered the Arizona Legislature – and may be one of the significant reasons why there may not be a direct attempt to bring Ranked Choice Voting to Arizona via a November 2024 ballot initiative.

Smith tweeted, “Two competing initiatives!? Fun! I look forward to helping Arizonans pass HCR 2033 protecting Arizona’s primary election system and keeping the entrenched consultant class out of picking our representatives. Looks like the Arizona Freedom Caucus is effective yet again like Laurie Roberts said.”

The freshman legislator sponsored HCR 2033, which sent a question to voters on an amendment to the state constitution to “determine that a Legislature-enacted direct primary law supersedes any contrary or inconsistent provision of any charter, law, ordinance, rule, resolution or policy of any city and modifies nominee requirements for a direct primary election.”

The vote in the Senate was split down party lines – 16-13, with one Democrat (Senator Miranda) not voting. Earlier in the session, the Arizona House passed the resolution – also along party lines – 31-28, with one Democrat (Representative Shah) not voting. The legislature then transmitted the resolution to the Arizona Secretary of State.

After the Senate passed the resolution, Smith wrote, “This constitutional referral to protect our party primaries and girding us against radical experimental election systems that disenfranchise voters such as ‘ranked choice voting.’”

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.

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