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Competing Arizona groups are working on campaigns to end partisan primaries

Following the launch of an effort to do away with Arizona’s current partisan system, a competing group filed paperwork for a similar campaign.

Both groups — Make Elections Fair AZ and Better Ballot Arizona — are working to get measures on the ballot that would allow voters to select any candidate in the primary, regardless of party affiliation. Both filed paperwork Tuesday with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office to begin gathering signatures to qualify for the ballot in 2024.

Where they differ is what happens next, in the general election.

Better Ballot Arizona would institute ranked choice voting between the top five primary election vote-getters. That means voters would rank the candidates in order of preference, from first to fifth. If a candidate doesn’t emerge in the first vote count with more than 50% of the vote, the candidate with the least votes would be eliminated. Voters who put the eliminated candidate as their first choice would see their second choice votes distributed among the remaining candidates. The tabulation would continue for multiple rounds until a winner emerges with more than 50 percent of the vote. 

Make Elections Fair AZ would leave it up to  state officials to decide how many candidates, between two and five, would advance from the primary. If lawmakers chose to allow more than two candidates to move on the general, they’d have to implement a ranked choice voting system. 

To qualify for the ballot, both organizations need to collect 383,923 signatures by July 3.

Former Democratic Attorney General Terry Goddard is an organizer with Make Elections Fair AZ. He said on Tuesday that he believes the two groups will eventually merge.

If either group succeeds in getting their measure on the ballot, it will go head to head with a competing measure Republican lawmakers already sent to the ballot. If approved next year, the lawmaker’s measure would protect the current partisan primary system. The sponsor of that legislation, Rep. Austin Smith, R-Wittman, could not be reached for comment.

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Camryn Sanchez is a field correspondent at KJZZ covering everything to do with state politics.