Open Elections initiative faces several challenges

They say that politics makes strange bed fellows and the “Open Government “initiative has created a partnership of the state’s largest corporations and unions in an effort to disenfranchise the average voter in the name of civility.

Judy Rich, President and CEO, TMC HealthCare, told the Yellow Sheet that her “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.”

Organizers of the effort are willing to pull out all the stops. “We’ll raise and spend what we need to pass the initiative,” Joe Yuhas, an organizer of the initiative told the Yellow Sheet.

According to campaign finance records the committee has raised over $928,186 and has spent over $927,168. Organizers said their fundraising efforts would increase now that they have filed the petitions to get on the November ballot.

Organizations from across the state have endorsed the measure including the Southern Arizona Leadership Council, Greater Phoenix Leadership,  the Metro Tucson Chamber of Commerce, Buckeye Chamber of Commerce, and the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Arizona Pipe Trades, Sheet Metal Workers, Phoenix Law Enforcement Assn and the UFCW.

The initiative, if passed, would amend the Arizona Constitution and eliminate the primary election as we know it. Political parties will no longer select their own nominee; instead registered voters will be allowed to vote for all parties’ candidates. The two top vote winners out of the total group will then have a run off in the General Election. The initiative, if passed will not go into effect until the 2014 elections.

Critics say the initiative might never make it to the ballot because it fails to cite a funding source. Arizona law requires that ballot initiatives and referendums must specify a new source of revenue for any required expenditure.

One republican said the initiative created a “jungle primary” and a democrat called it a “half-baked idea.”

The Arizona Legislative Council advised legislators that the “The proposition leaves to future Legislatures and governing bodies a number of issues, including who will have access to the statewide voter database, how vacancies will be handled, what percentage of votes will be set each year as the number of petition signatures required by each candidate for each office to qualify for the ballot, how to pay for the two tier election and how to pay for the cost of implementation and conforming legislation. The Department of Justice must pre-clear any changes.”

Big business and the unions call it “a win win.” Lea Márquez Peterson, President and CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce told the Yellow Sheet, “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.”

The initiatives opponents would almost never come together either, but they are now.