Coalition Announces Campaign To Reform Arizona Election System
Arizona could open up primary elections and the source of major campaign contributions if two constitutional amendments garner enough signatures and votes.
On Thursday a bipartisan group, known as the Open and Honest Coalition, announced its ambitious campaign to reform the state's election system with two voter-approved measures.
One would let all candidates appear on the ballot in the August primary, and then the two with the most votes would move on to the General Election. The other initiative would require outside groups that receive a contribution of more than $10,000 to disclose the source.
"It’s really simple. It’s to try to make certain that we make it very easy for every voter to vote in every election and to make certain that they have a right to know who’s funding the campaigns,” said former Phoenix mayor and Democrat Paul Johnson.
He was joined by former lawmakers, community activists and supporters of open primaries. The coalition must gather more than 200,000 valid signatures by early July to make it on the November ballot. Backed in part by national organization Open Primaries, the group hopes to raise millions of dollars in order to put forward a vigorous campaign over the coming months.
Independents make up more than a third of all registered voters in Arizona, but Independent candidates are not allowed to appear on the primary ballot.
“Our current election system for state offices discriminates against these voters and forces them to participate in a taxpayer-funded election, which forces them to choose a very partisan ballot," said conservative strategist Chuck Coughlin, who runs HighGround Inc.
Coughlin characterized the two-party system "Injected with the steroids of dark money" as broken.
A one-time opponent of Coughlin's, former Democratic attorney general Terry Goddard is also helping lead the campaign.
He said the measure targeting dark money would force disclosure “without regard for how many hands it may have gone through in an effort to hide, to disguise the original contributor,” Goddard said. "I believe that is critically important for restoring confidence in our election system."