Arizonans may vote on three ballot measures on the future of primary elections
Arizonans may have to choose between three competing propositions next November to decide how to conduct future primary elections.
Why it matters: We could be staring down a 2024 fight that has the potential to overhaul our elections.
Better Ballot Arizona proposed an amendment to the state constitution that would replace partisan primaries with a system in which all candidates appear on one primary ballot and the top five vote-getters advance to the general election.
- Winners would be determined through ranked-choice voting (RCV), in which voters rank candidates by order of preference.
- If no one gets a majority, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and their voters' second-choice votes are given to the remaining candidates until someone has over 50%.
The Make Elections Fair Act, filed last month, would end partisan primaries and have all candidates appear on a single nonpartisan primary ballot, with two to five candidates advancing to the general election.
- It wouldn't mandate RCV, but the state would have to use ranking in any system where more than two candidates advance from the primary.
GOP lawmakers referred a proposition earlier this year to the 2024 ballot that would enshrine Arizona's current partisan primary system in the state constitution.
State of play: The two initiative campaigns need to collect at least 384,000 valid signatures by July 3, 2024, to even qualify for the ballot.
- If more than one of the three measures are approved by voters, the option with the most votes would become law.
Between the lines: The reformist groups were originally working together, but split after the group behind the Make Elections Fair Act decided to permit but not mandate RCV.
- Better Ballot Arizona executive director Kazz Fernandes told Axios Phoenix the group moved forward with a competing proposal because it provides voters with more choices, while the Make Elections Fair Act could result in fewer choices in the general election.
The other side: Chuck Coughlin, a spokesperson for the Make Elections Fair Act, said they decided "based on a year and a half's worth of research" that Better Ballot Arizona's proposal wasn't feasible.
- He added that he doesn't believe Better Ballot Arizona, which is currently volunteer-only, will have the resources to get on the ballot, though Fernandes said his effort plans to seek funding and hopes to hire paid petitioners to collect signatures.
- Fernandes said Coughlin's polling was "pessimistic" but that his group has seen polling with "numbers we can use to craft a path to victory."
The other other side: Rep. Austin Smith (R-Wittmann), who sponsored the pro-partisan primaries measure, told Axios Phoenix that his proposal will have an easier time if the other measures both make the ballot.
- The two initiatives will compete with similar messages, and some voters may vote for one and against the other, he said.
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