Make Elections Fair Arizona Act: What to know about a proposal that could change elections in the state

We have learned that millions of dollars have been raised to completely change how Arizonans vote in primary elections.

The plan, which still has a few hurdles to overcome, aims to do away with separate ballots for each party. According to a statement, supporters have filed the plan with the Arizona Secretary of State's Office, and has launched their effort of gathering signatures to qualify the measure for the November 2024 ballot.

"It will be one of the most dramatic changes that's happened in Arizona," said Paul Johnson.

Here's what to know about the proposed changes in the "Make Elections Fair Arizona Act."

What changes are they proposing for primaries?

According to documents posted to the Arizona Secretary of State's website, the initiative, among other things, will:

  1. Create the same signature requirements for those wishing to run for a particular office, without regards to political party affiliation or lack thereof.
  2. Create a single, open primary election where all candidates appear on the same ballot.
  3. Ban the use of taxpayer funds for any partisan primary election, including presidential primaries (known as "Presidential Preference Elections" in Arizona) unless they are open to all voters.
  4. Allow no fewer than two candidates and no more than five candidates to advance to the general election, for any office where voters will select one candidate.
  5. Allow no fewer than four candidates and no more than seven candidates to advance to the general election, for any office where voters will select two candidates.
  6. Allow no fewer than six candidates and no more than eight candidates to advance to the general election, for any office where voters will select three candidates.
  7. Allow the legislature to change the number of candidates who may advance to the general election. Such rights can only be exercised once every six years.

What about the general election? Are they proposing any changes?

The measure also includes changes to the general election, including:

  • Electing someone to be elected by majority vote for races where two candidates are running for one position.
  • Allow the use of voter ranking, described in a manner similar to Ranked Choice Voting, for races where three or more candidates are running for one position.

Are there any other proposed changes?

The proposed measure also bans the use of public dollars to administer political party elections, with an exception for Presidential Preference Elections, if such elections are open to all registered voters regardless of political party affiliations.

How are elections currently run in Arizona?

According to the Arizona Secretary of State's website, people who are registering to vote may select a political party preference during the registration process. New registrants who did not select a party preference will be deemed as "Party Not Designated" (PND).

"Registrants who are designated as Green, Independent, Other, or Party Not Designated will all be treated as though they have no political party as none of these are recognized parties at the state level," read a portion of the website.

As for elections, the person who garnered the most vote in the general election (or the top candidates, depending on the elected office) win the post they run for.

Wait! Aren't Independent/PND voters allowed to vote in any primary?

According to the Secretary of State's website, Independent voters, along with PND voters, can choose which party ballot they wish to receive for the primary election. However, this does not apply to the Presidential Preference Election.

What do supporters of the proposed measure need to do now?

According to documents posted to the Secretary of State's website, the measure, which was given the serial number I-14-2024, needs 383,923 valid signatures in order to qualify for the November 2024 ballot.

The signatures need to be turned in by July 3, 2024. The group says theyve raised $5.5 million for the endeavor, and have 600 volunteers signed up.

How could it impact elections in Arizona?

Supporters of the measure say if provisions they are proposing were in place for the 2022 election, there may be different outcomes.

"I guarantee you in the gubernatorial race, Karrin Taylor Robson would have been the nominee of the Republican Party, and she'd be the Governor right now," said Beau Lane.

Supporters believe the measure will allow independents, which make up the biggest bloc of voters in Arizona, to have more of a voice.

"We're ensuring every single voter has the right to be able to participate in the election system, to become a candidate, and be able to vote," said Johnson.

According to data from October 2023 provided by the Arizona Secretary of State's Office, close to 1.46 million Arizona voters are deemed to have a political party affiliation other than Democratic, Libertarian, No Labels, or Republican, representing 34.67% of the electorate.

Will the proposal affect the 2024 election?

As supporters aim to get the measure on the November 2024 ballot, the Make Elections Fair Arizona Act will have no bearing on how elections will be run in 2024.

According to the language for the measure, the proposed changes, if approved by voters, will only affect elections that take place after July 1, 2026.

In 2026, various state and local elections, including elections for top statewide offices including governor, will take place.

What do political party officials think about the bill?

Officials with the Democratic Party of Arizona refused to comment.

Meanwhile, officials with the Republican Party of Arizona have said, in a previous statement, that they believe the proposed measure will lead to "voter disenfranchisement and confusion."