Arizona Supreme Court rules in favor of open-primary initiative

Sep 7, 2012, 8:20 AM | Updated: 8:21 am

PHOENIX — Ending a lengthy legal battle, the Arizona Supreme Court on Thursday cleared the way for voters to decide in November whether to switch from partisan to open primaries for state offices.

“Obviously, we are elated,” said former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson, a leader of the Open Government Committee. “We’re very excited to see that this is going to be moving forward, and now we have to make our case to the public.”

The committee is behind a ballot measure that would transform Arizona’s primary system. Instead of a closed primary system in which each party nominates candidates to go head-to-head in the general election, the proposed open primary would have the top two vote-getters — regardless of party affiliation — advancing to the general election.

Opponents organized around the group Save Our Vote challenged whether Johnson’s group had gathered enough signatures to place the measure on the ballot, alleging that some signatures were gathered improperly.

After a Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled last week in favor of the Open Government Committee, opponents asked the Supreme Court for more time to make their case.

Save Our Vote’s primary contention was that the Superior Court “abused its discretion” by only allowing each group two hours to present evidence and declining a request for additional time.

In the decision, written by Vice Chief Justice Scott Bales, the court ruled that the Superior Court judge acted properly.

“SOV did not object to the court’s allocating four hours for the hearing or dividing the time equally,” Bales wrote. “During the hearing itself, when SOV requested additional time to present more evidence, it neither made an offer of proof regarding the proposed evidence nor argued that adhering to the previously established schedule would be unfairly prejudicial.”

The ruling came one day before the final deadline to print the November ballots.

Joe Yuhas, general consultant to the Open Government Campaign, said that he was surprised not necessarily by the decision but rather the process that led to it.

“If there were any surprises at all, it’s the fact that we had to go to court on five different occasions simply to protect the rights of Arizona voters to vote on the measure,” he said.

Mike Liburdi, the attorney who represented Save Our Vote, was convinced that the time element was a major factor in the ruling.

“They had a difficult situation and they had to make a decision,” Liburdi said. “And they made what they think is the best decision under the circumstances.”

The Supreme Court had originally ruled in August that the initiative was constitutional, lifting an injunction placed on it by another Superior Court judge.

Johnson touted Thursday’s decision as a victory for citizens’ power to hold government accountable.

“What the Supreme Court, at least in our particular case, has now re-affirmed twice is that that power should not be subordinate to the power of the people who are in office,” he said.

Lifetime Windows & Doors

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., arrives for a meeting of the Senate Homeland Security Committee at th...
KTAR.com

Senate approves Biden’s sweeping Inflation Reduction Act

Arizona senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly praised the Senate's approval of a sweeping inflation and climate change bill.
17 hours ago
(Facebook photo / Phoenix Public Library)...
KTAR.com

​​Century Library to temporarily close for maintenance Aug. 22

The Phoenix Public Library Century Branch will close from Monday, Aug. 22 through Sunday, Oct. 2 for maintenance.
17 hours ago
(Clayco photo)...
KTAR.com

Real estate firm Clayco breaks ground on industrial development in Mesa

Real estate development and construction firm Clayco this week broke ground on a four-building flex-industrial development in Mesa.
17 hours ago
(Facebook photo / The Saguaros)...
KTAR.com

Scottsdale 20/30 Club rebrands as ‘The Saguaros,’ donates to Phoenix Children’s

The Scottsdale 20/30 Club, an organization that threw fundraisers to help local children's charities, rebranded in July as the "Saguaros."
17 hours ago
(Public domain photo)...
Associated Press

Man sentenced to 24 years in prison for killing Arizona jail officer

A Phoenix man was sentenced to 24 years in prison for his convictions for manslaughter in the 2013 killing of a Maricopa County jail officer.
2 days ago
(Facebook File Photo/Lake Pleasant Regional Park)...
KTAR.com

Deputies search for man last seen swimming in Lake Pleasant

Authorities are searching for a man who went underwater swimming in the Humbug Cove area of Lake Pleasant and did not resurface.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
...
Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

Why your student-athlete’s physical should be conducted by a sports medicine specialist

Dr. Anastasi from Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Tempe answers some of the most common questions.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?
Arizona Supreme Court rules in favor of open-primary initiative