SPEAKER

 
President Bryant introduced our speaker for the day - Patrick McWhorter, Arizona Campaign Director for "Open Primaries".  Patrick has extensive experience working for non-profit organizations.  He is a member of the Arizona Town Hall.
"Open Primaries" is an organization trying to bring changes to the election process.  The problem is the stranglehold partisan politics has on the election process that intentionally or unintentionally disenfranchises many voters. OP believes "no American should be required to join a political party to exercise his or her right to vote." 
Patrick asked two questions about the current political system.
1. Is it working?  We have a paralyzed national Congress, 17 trillion in national debt and an unwillingness to compromise to deal with important national issues like immigration reform, social security reform and tax reform.  Who has power and how they can keep power are the primary concerns of elected partisan politicians. On the state level, we have SB 1070, SB 1062,cuts to education and a series of fringe partisan bills that have nothing to do with Arizona's real needs. In AZ, 90% of people feel the Legislature does not truly represent them.
2. Is it fair? In Arizona, there are 30 election districts, each of which elects 2 House members and 1 Senate member.  Due to gerrymandering, only 5 districts are truly competitive, the other 25 are decided by who wins the dominant party primary in the district.  Only 5% of voters vote in primary elections, so 5% of the people are in essence electing the Legislature in 25 districts.  The party system is also unfair to independents.  Independents represent 42% of the national electorate and 35% of the AZ electorate and is growing. Independents have to declare Republican or Democratic to get a ballot and it takes 10 times as many signatures to run as an independent than it does under a party label. Independents have to re-register for every election which is not true of party voters.
"Open Primaries" believes joining a political party should not be a requirement to vote in elections. Let the primary candidates face all the voters and then move along the top two vote getters to the general election. Two states have open elections - Nebraska and California.  In both states, there is much more compromise and co-sponsorship of legislation based around issues rather than party affiliation.  We also have experience with non-partisan voting for city councils. OP believes the party system is destined to fail unless some of these remedial steps are taken to open the system to more voters. Patrick passed around sign-up sheets for people interested in supporting OP.  Their website is at www.openprimariesaz.org