Three Magic Reforms
Aficionados of the classic educational shorts from the seventies, “Schoolhouse Rock,” know full well that “Three is a Magic Number.” And just like we learned that a tripod and a table need at least three legs on which to stand, election reform that will deliver better results for Arizona must stand on three solid legs: Equalized signature requirements, open primaries, and a top-five advancement to a general election in which voters are able to rank their choices (Ranked Choice Voting: RCV). These three components work together to empower voters, not political parties, to have more choices and more voice in the selection of our elected officials.
Enacting these reforms will shift the balance of power from the parties, who have a vested interest in limiting true competition, to the people they are intended to serve. Each separate reform has merit and would provide improvements to our current system. But only by implementing all three reforms together do we achieve the magic: the ultimate goal of reaffirming our system as a true democracy.
A Basic Exercise in Fairness
Equalizing signature requirements is a basic exercise in fairness. Having tougher requirements for candidates who are not anointed by the duopoly keeps good people from running and limits both the number of choices for voters and the range of ideas discussed. We must have a level playing field for all who wish to compete and serve. Still, equalizing signature requirements alone is pointless. If only two candidates emerge from two highly partisan, closed primaries, as they do now, there is little motivation for independent, third party, or fresh candidates to compete. Voters will be left with the same polarized options in the general election that frequently produces the “lesser of two evils” dilemma.
It’s Always Better When Everyone is In
A truly open primary in which all qualified candidates could compete, and all qualified voters could select their one favorite would greatly expand the number of choices and the nuances among them for voters. But without allowing more than two candidates to advance to the general election, the toxic, all-or-nothing, mud-slinging dynamic of today’s campaigns won’t change. New candidates won’t see reason to run in such a narrow field. And since 83% of Arizona’s legislative districts are considered “safe” Republican or Democrat, top-two-only could easily result in only two Rs or two Ds in many legislative races, quashing the influence of independent and minority party voters within those districts.
Ranked Choice Voting
Having five to choose from in the general election would indeed lead to more options, but without ranked choice voting, ”winners” might prevail with far less than 50% support. Without the ability to rank choices, voters will continue to be pressured to vote for the “most viable” instead of the most qualified, skilled, or inspiring candidate in fear of vote-splitting and tipping the scales in favor of their least favorite option.
More Voice, More Choice
It may not be magic, but only the combination of all three electoral reforms can significantly change the incentives of our leaders to serve the people and solve problems instead of simply appealing to a minority of voters who currently determine the outcomes of highly-partisan political primaries and the top-two general election races which are usually foregone conclusions. That’s why Voter Choice Arizona will continue to educate voters about all three components of our proposed electoral reform and work tirelessly to bring you a better ballot that will give Arizonans more choice, more voice, and better outcomes for our state.