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Top-two primary supporters appeal to high court

Paul Johnson, former Phoenix mayor and chairman of the Open Government Committee, speaks with the media in front the 365,486 signature petitions the committee handed over to the Arizona Secretary of State Thursday in order to qualify the Open Elections/Open Government ballot initiative for the 2012 election. The initiative would change Arizona's primary election system so that the two candidates with the most votes, regardless of party, would advance to the general election. (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

The committee pushing an initiative to create a “top-two” primary system is asking the Arizona Supreme Court to overturn a lower court’s ruling and keep the proposal on the November ballot.

The Open Government Committee on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court for expedited consideration of the issue. Justice John Pelander ordered all parties to file briefs in the case by Friday, with responses due by Tuesday.

Pelander did not schedule any oral arguments in the case. He said any requests for oral arguments must be filed by Tuesday as well, and must explain the specific need.

The committee is hoping the Supreme Court will overturn the injunction ordered Monday by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Mark Brain. Brain ruled that the Open Elections/Open Government Act violated the separate amendment rule in the Arizona Constitution. The act would create a system in which all candidates for an office run on the same ballot in the primary and the top two vote getters advance to the general election.

The separate amendment rule requires ballot initiatives to have a singular focus. Brain said a provision in the initiative eliminating public funding for precinct committeeman elections was not consistent with the rest of the initiative.


  1. Having lived in Washington State under the Top-Two system, it means that a minority of voters (those voting in the primary) will decide who the majority gets to vote for.

    It also means the end – practically speaking – of any newer parties. In Washington, in a significant number of districts there were onlye two Republicans or just two Democrats on the ballot. This is not a way to increase voter participation.

    Washington State has had this system since 2006 and has gone through two cycles: 2008 and 2012. There has been no moderating of candidates or move to the center. There has been a limited choice of candidates and those supporting newer parties, like Libertarians or Greens, have no choice at all in the General Election.

    I pray that the Supreme Court will not allow this mess on the Arizona ballot. We just don’t need it here!

  2. Donna Gratehouse

    Ruth, Top Two benefits the candidates with the most money. Proponents seem to be acting out of the misguided and frankly elitist assumption that wealthy candidates can’t be extremist and that the interests of moderate and independent voters align perfectly with those of the Chamber of Commerce and business leaders.

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