An in-depth look at the Open Government Initiative


by Jay Crandall

Posted on August 17, 2011 at 9:48 PM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 17 at 10:00 PM

PHOENIX - As the battle over raising America's debt ceiling unfolded over the last month, many Americans seemed shocked that congressional leaders and the White House could not reach a deal.

It seemed to many of our elected leaders were more interested in serving the party line, than serving America; and compromise was a dirty word. But  there is now a movement in Arizona, that some say could pull our politicians into the middle.

Joe Yuhas who represents the Open Government Initiative, said the middle is under served by Arizona’s current partisan primary system.

“Right now our primary partisan elections are largely controlled by a handful of voters on either side of the political spectrum. And we see the results,” he said.

The results, Yuhas said are a government that often seems deadlocked as members of both parties dig in their heels.

"We can't continue to go down this road that we cannot allow the partisanship that has gripped our governments at all levels to be the primary motivation for many of our public policy decisions,” Yuhas said.

But Yuhas said he hopes that will soon change in Arizona with the Open Government Initiative.

“We will replace the current partisan primary system here in Arizona with a system that allows for all candidates to appear on a single ballot and for all voters to have the opportunity to choose among their candidates," he said. "Regardless of the candidates political affiliation and regardless  of the voters political affiliation.”

That’s right, all the candidates on one ballot and all voters deciding at the same time. It would cover races for all offices in Arizona, except for the president.

Yuhas said the result will be more moderate candidates.

“That will also force candidates for public office to appeal to a much broader audience of voters,” he said.

Backers also believe it will bring out more voters, especially independents who right now much choose which primary to vote in.

“And by attracting more voters to our election process, it forces candidates to the concerns and issues of more voters,” he said.

But it could also mean two democrats, or two republicans end up facing each other in the general election. And while neither party has taken an officials stance on the idea, 
Democratic Party chair Andrei Cherny said, even if one party is cut out of the general election, that does not necessarily make it a bad idea.

“But the devil is in the details and the hope is that you can have more mainstream candidates be elected,” Cherny said.

And Yuhas said while there is no way to predict whether more democrats or republicans would be elected, backers firmly believe party will take a back seat to problem solving.

"Because we will have an open government process that will empower more voters in the election process who will demand that we want to send candidates to public office who are going to solve problems,“ Yuhas said.

We did also ask the Republican Party for a comment, they did not respond to our request. Supporters hope to have the Open Government Initiative on the ballot in November of 2012, it would take effect almost immediately thereafter. 

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