Who thinks it is a good idea to let voters decide which candidates appear on the general election ballot? Probably everyone. How about letting just one politician decide instead? You would hope that question is rhetorical, and the answer is no one. But right now, out-of-state special interests are spending millions of dollars to put their so-called “Make Elections Fair” measure on the ballot that would do just that. 

The groups pushing these ideas are trying to trick voters into signing their petitions and supporting their poorly written constitutional amendment, arguing it will lead to less partisanship and more centrist candidates on the general election ballot. But hidden in the measure is a provision that lets just one politician, the Secretary of State, decide how many candidates move from the primary to the general election. 

And it isn’t limited to just some elections. Under the measure, the Secretary of State would have the power to decide for every single election on the ballot, including his own! The Secretary of State could go up and down the ballot, selecting just two candidates for the general election in one race, then select three, four, or five in another when only one candidate can win in the general.

It gets even more confusing when two candidates can win the general election for two seats (like for the State House). The Secretary of State can select four candidates for one race, but seven in another, picking and choosing all the way up and down the ballot for every single race however many candidates would most benefit his own political party. 

How about his own race? If it is better for him to go head-to-head with just one opponent, he can unilaterally declare that just two candidates will be on the ballot. But if it is better to “crowd the field,” he can let five candidates show up on your ballot to have his opponents fight with each other while he sneaks his way to victory. 

This new candidate selection scheme would be in addition to the fact that their measure will result in some races where candidates from only one political party appear on the general election ballot, depriving many voters of any choice at all.  If this sounds familiar, it’s because California uses this exact same system to select its candidates. That’s right. The proponents are trying to fix Arizona’s election system by bringing in ideas from San Francisco.

When the legislature writes election laws, their bills have to pass through two legislative chambers consisting of 90 different lawmakers elected from every corner of Arizona. There are committee hearings, public testimony, amendments, recorded votes, and then the Governor has to approve it too. 

But according to the proponents of this measure, what is “fair” is removing all those checks and balances and just consolidating all power into the hands of one politician so he can install a confusing system no one wants. 

California politicians like to pick their opponents. In Arizona, we like to let the voters make that choice. Placing all power in the hands of one politician isn’t fair, it won’t lead to more centrist candidates, and for a group that purports to support and defend “democracy,” this is one of the most undemocratic measures ever written.   

But the drafters of this measure likely don’t care. Their goal is to buy their way onto the ballot, then hope voters won’t discover all the easter eggs they hid in the initiative. No question that this is a very cynical strategy that speaks volumes about their low opinion of voters, but given that they thought it was a good idea to give one politician the power to pick their own opponents, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. 

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