Open Elections/Open Government Campaign Files Petitions for November Ballot365,486 signatures filed, most of any successful ballot measure in Arizona historyPR Newswire
PHOENIX, July 5, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --Arizona business and community leaders today filed petitions containing 365,486 signatures of Arizona voters in support of the Open Elections/Open Government Initiative.
"We couldn't be more pleased by this demonstration of public support, as it speaks volumes to the broad grassroots support the initiative enjoys across the state," said Phil Francis, former chairman and CEO of Petsmart and one of the leaders of the campaign. "Our campaign collected well over 100,000 more than the 259,213 signatures required by law, and gathered signatures from every county in the state."
With this filing, the campaign achieved a new historic mark. "No ballot measure in the history of Arizona that ultimately went on to be approved by Arizona voters has ever secured more signatures," said Phoenix business and community leader Bill Post. The previous mark, set in 2008, was 360,416 for the "Protect Our Homes" initiative.
The Open Elections/Open Government initiative would do away with the current primary elections in Arizona in which only a limited number of voters now participate and are only permitted to cast ballots for the partisan candidates from one party. In its place would be an open primary election open to all voters and all candidates. The top two candidates from that electionregardless of political partywill then face off in the November election, where voters are given a real choice. The Initiative would apply to all elections and all candidates in Arizona except president and vice president.
Rich Dozer, chairman of GenSpring Family Office of Phoenix and former president of the Arizona Diamondbacks, noted that well before today's filing, the state's three major business organizations formally endorsed the measure. "We're delighted that Greater Phoenix Leadership, the Flagstaff 40, and the Southern Arizona Leadership Council have taken a major and early leadership role in our effort," said Dozer.
If approved by voters in November, Arizona would become the latest state to open up its election process in order to address the hyper-partisanship and the ideological divide that has discouraged compromise and bipartisanship. Nebraska has had a non-partisan State Legislature, since 1936, and polls show it consistently enjoys the approval of Nebraska voters by as much as 80 percent. The same holds true in the state of Washington, which adopted its top-two primary a number of years ago. In a poll conducted after the 2008 Primary, 76 percent approved of Washington's more open primary system.
In early June, California recently held its first open Primary as a result of its own version of the Open Elections/Open Government Initiative passed by voters in 2010. The state's new top-two open primary has shaken up the system and a few trends have already become clear. Even before Election Day, California's new open primary had an impact on many incumbents, who chose to simply not run. An unusually high number of incumbents, deprived of a guaranteed re-election based on controlled party primaries and forced to compete in the now open primary, decided to retire rather than compete in an open process. As a result, California voters will be represented by many new faces come next year: 11 congressional, nine state Senate and 35 Assembly races this year feature open seats without an incumbent running.
Meanwhile, incumbent party favorites who previously faced token opposition, if any, in closed primaries now have to campaign aggressively to advance to the November ballot. They can no longer take re-election, let alone re-nomination, for granted.
Arizona's current registration polls indicate 3.1 million voters are registered in the state. "By signing the petition, nearly 12 percent of Arizona voters agree that a change in the election process is needed," said Judy Rich, president and CEO, TMC HealthCare, and a Tucson community leader. "My hope is that through the passage of this initiative we will be able to engage in a more productive and civil dialogue about the future of our state."
Other business organizations from across the state that to date have endorsed the measure include the Metro Tucson Chamber of Commerce, Buckeye Chamber of Commerce, and the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
The open elections process would not be totally new in Arizona. While contests for statewide offices, the State Legislature, and Arizona's Congressional delegation feature closed, partisan primaries, all but one of the 93 Arizona incorporated communities already has an open election process. In those races for mayor and city and town councils, all voters are eligible to vote, all candidates appear on the same ballot, regardless of party label with the top two candidates advancing to face off in a general election.
"What is perhaps most interesting is that individuals and organizations that rarely come together are doing so in support the Open Elections/Open Government Initiative," said Lea Marquez Peterson, president and CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. "Most voters, regardless of their individual beliefs, are simply tired of hyper-partisanship, extreme political views and the endless ideological debate that now dominates governing process. Voters want government to focus on what's really importanteducation, jobs, and sound economic policies. Opening our election process up to more voters will force candidates and elected officials to do just that."
"Today's filing is just one more critical step in our effort to attack the hyper-partisanship that has nearly paralyzed our governing process," said Tucson attorney and community leader Ted Hinderaker. "We now fully expect the lobbyists and politicians who like things just the way they are to now begin their efforts to defeat the initiative this fall."
For more information about the initiative, go to www.AzOpenGov.org
SOURCE Open Elections/Open Government