Arizona Opponents of "Top-Two Open Primary" Initiative File Lawsuit, Charging that Measure Encompasses More than a Single Subject

On July 16, opponents of Arizona’s top-two open primary initiative filed a lawsuit in state court, charging that the measure violates the Arizona Constitution. The Arizona Constitution, like the state constitution of all states that permit statewide initiatives, requires that initiatives be limited to a single subject. See this story.

UPDATE: here is the complaint. The only group political plaintiffs are the committee formed to oppose the measure, and the Arizona League of Women Voters. The individual voter plaintiffs include Barry Hess, who has run for Governor of Arizona as a Libertarian. The Complaint charges that the measure violates the single-subject rule, and it also charges that the description of the initiative on the petitions is misleading.

On the single subject issue, the initiative abolishes elections for party officers. None of the three other states that have top-two systems (Louisiana, Washington, and California) abolished elections for party office when they started using top-two systems. There seems to be no necessary connection between a top-two system and eliminating elections for party office.

The top-two open primary initiative does not mesh with the existing public funding law in Arizona. The initiative does not attempt to alter the public funding law, but the public funding law assumes that the state has party nominations, and sets out different rules for public funding depending on whether a candidate is running in a district in which one particular party is strongly dominant, versus other types of districts. If the top-two law passes, it would be difficult to reconcile the public funding rules with the top-two system.

7 comments

  1. Demo Rep · · Reply

    The EVIL gerrymander monsters have the *one subject* stuff as one more defense against ANY *real* change to get REAL Democracy stuff.


    P.R. and nonpartisan App.V.

  2. Larry Allred · · Reply

    Said it before but again: Any really welcome and significant change in statute law will necessarily be sweeping and do more than one thing and therefore deal with more that just one particular subject. It’ll be a concept change and laws rarely exist in anticipation of that new approach.

    So the single subject rule becomes a catch-all for jurists who wanna abort wacky stuff. Someone out there say single subject rulings are straitforward tests?

    I wonder though whether sharp legal minds have ever sought to list the best and worst examples of the application of this standard. Has any court ever attempted a brite line test? Is such a thing in this instance absurd?

    Abort This Measure.

  3. Richard Winger · · Reply

    #2, there are lots of legal precedents in all the initiative states on the single-subject rule. This issue gets litigated constantly all over the nation.

  4. Demo Rep · · Reply

    # 3 Such one subject cases even worse messed up than *simple* ballot access cases by the robot party hack courts ???

    — i.e. ad hoc ARBITRARY / NO standards tyrannical ???

  5. Bil Munsil · · Reply

    The AZ Top Two proposal will effectively abolish all third parties. For one reason, third party candidates will never get enough votes in the top two and also, third party candidates will not be able to gather enough signatures to even get ON the ballot.

    Bil Munsil
    Retired Libertarian Activist
    Mesa, AZ

  6. John Rey · · Reply

    Please explain why the argument of #5 is erroneous. It seems plausible on its face. I have no opinion on single-subject rule, but at first blush, seems like a catch-all.

  7. Jim Riley · · Reply

    #3 The complaint appears to confuse the statutory provisions that the constitutional amendment requires, with the simple constitutional provisions.

    The League of Women Voters should be embarrassed to be associated with this lawsuit which is essentially an attack on the initiative process, simply because they happen to oppose the Open Primary on policy grounds.

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