A Maricopa County Superior Court judge issued an injunction against the Open Elections/Open Government Act today, ruling that a provision on the election of political parties’ officers violates a rule requiring ballot initiatives to focus on a single subject. Judge Mark Brain ruled that the section on the rights of political parties should have been a separate amendment from the initiative, which aims to create a “top two” primary election system in Arizona. The provision on the rights of political parties states that the initiative does restrict the rights of individuals to associate with political parties, and that parties may still elect party officers, support candidates or otherwise participate in elections, but that “no such procedures shall be paid for or subsidized using public funds.” The provision would have eliminated taxpayer-funded elections for precinct committeemen. Paul Johnson, chairman of the Open Government Committee, said the group will appeal the ruling to the Arizona Supreme Court. He said the appeal will likely be filed on Tuesday.
Brain said there is no good reason why a prohibition on public funding for party activities should be included in the initiative. He disagreed with the Open Government Committee’s argument that the only change created by the provision is that the publicly funded system used to select party officers in the past would no longer be usable because it would not exist anymore. “It would be one thing if the initiative provided that candidates for such offices will no longer appear on the non-partisan primary ballot – such a provision would directly relate to how the primary election would work. Instead, this provision prohibits state assistance in any form or forum and at any time,” Brain wrote.
Attorney Mike Liburdi, who is representing the Save Our Vote committee that sued to block the initiative, praised the ruling. He said defunding precinct committeeman elections had nothing to do with creating a top-two primary system. “This committee put in a provision that has nothing to do with the substance of what they’re trying to achieve, and from all indications they did it in a manner to use it as a sound bite in their political campaign,” Liburdi said.