Open Primaries: On May 9th, O'Connor House partnered with the Morrison Institute for Public Policy on the first "Issues & Answers Forum" on open primary elections at Burton Barr Library in Phoenix. Sue Clark Johnson, OCH Board Chair of the Policy Committee, organized the panel discussion, which featured Steve Peace, architect of the successful California initiative; Richard Winger, a founder of Coalition on Free and Open Elections and publisher of Ballot Access News and Arizona leaders representing both sides of the issue, Grady Gammage, Jr., one of the Arizona initiative's authors, and Alan Maguire, of The Maguire Company, an independent management analysis and public policy consulting firm specializing in economic forecasting.
The Arizona Republic published an editorial which highlighted the forum, “Open primaries have been touted as a game-changer for Arizona politics. They have also been dubbed the latest fad from those who like to engineer political outcomes.” The editorial goes one to say “Some say this "top two" system would result in general-election candidates who have broader appeal. Under the current system, partisan primaries have low turnout and those who do show up tend to be on the extreme edges of their respective parties. Moderate candidates usually get eliminated at the primary level.
Others suggest that the top-two system could further limit choices by producing general-election races between two members of the same party. Concerns have also been raised that this system could weaken political parties.” To read the article, click here.
Supporters are gathering signatures for a November 2012 ballot initiative that poses to replace partisan primaries with an open primary in which all candidates would run and all registered voters could vote, regardless of party. The top two vote getters would advance to the general election.
More than 200 joined the lively discussion moderated by Michael Grant and opened by Justice O’Connor. Morrison Institute completed a background research paper on the topic, "The Nonpartisan Primary: Is it a Game Changer?" by Senior Fellow David R. Berman, which can be accessed here.
Merit Selection of Judges: Our second Issues and Answers Forum is slated for the Arizona Bar Association meeting in June, with an all-star panel including, former 9th Circuit Court Judge Mary Schroeder and former State Supreme Court Justice Ruth McGregor; Grady Gammage, Jr. will narrate.
At Justice O’Connor’s urging, an Advisory group to O’Connor House was formed to explore important public policy issues. The group concluded that, as Arizona moves into its second century, each branch of government is facing its own unique challenges. However, with these challenges, new opportunities to re-evaluate and perhaps even reinvent government arise. The O’Connor House goal in public policy is to facilitate civil, fact based discussions about important policy issues, and to build collaborations and partnerships for reforms which will better position Arizona to represent current and future citizenry in our second century of statehood.
WORKING TOGETHER FOR ARIZONA’S 2ND CENTURY
In December 2008, Justice O’Connor met with a small group of policy advisors to discuss improvements in state government for Arizona’s second century. Over the next several months, she convened almost 200 of the state’s most influential leaders, asking them to set aside their political differences and identify ways to make state government more efficient, responsive and cohesive.
With Justice O’Connor’s input, a thoughtful discussion and analysis ensued, which gave our legislators the opportunity to find some common ground in this difficult economic climate. One measure, designed to improve the initiative process, received almost unanimous support from the legislature and was signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer.
A number of community leaders also established a separate 501(4) entity to advance additional recommendations developed out of this O'Connor House process. Signatures were collected to put two initiatives on the 2010 ballot, but were defeated.
Those involved in this process agree that, as important as the issues considered were, the fact that we successfully brought together disparate groups and fostered discussion on finding solutions is the enduring legacy of this effort. It is the first step in an on-going process aimed at bringing civil dialogue based on fact to key policy decision-making.
The Arizona Education Commitment
Sue Clark-Johnson, Chair
An excellent education system is at the core of any democracy. Arizona is ranked among the lowest states in high school graduation and student achievement. At a time when we need to be strengthening our education system, education budgets are being cut from pre-school through universities. With the Arizona Constitution as its foundation, the Arizona Education Commitment emphasizes the historical prioritization of education, and encourages our current and future state legislators to recognize their obligation to carry out that commitment. A non-partisan collaboration between the O’Connor House and Expect More Arizona, the Arizona Education Commitment is a collaborative nonpartisan partnership led by O’Connor House and Expect More Arizona and supported by the Helios Foundation. Phase I launched the public awareness effort. The next phase will intensify this effort through social media and outreach to the public and community leaders. More than 1,000 signers have joined the campaign.