More than 40 local residents Tuesday packed into the City Council chambers to learn about the nine state ballot measures set for the Nov. 6 general election ballot.
Two election services division employees from Secretary of State Ken Bennett’s office led the informational discussion. They explained what each measure was intended to do as best they could and got into some specifics stated in the voter guide.
Tuesday’s town hall meeting is part of the Secretary of State’s office effort to inform voters on the ballot measures in 25 informational discussions this month in communities across the state.
As anticipated by the elections officials, the two measures that attracted the most interest were the ones that call for an open primary and making a temporary 1 cent sales tax permanent and calling for it to pay for education programs, public transportation infrastructure projects and human services.
Pat Viverto, a voter outreach director with the Secretary of State’s Election Services Division, asked for proponents and opponents on each ballot measure. Those two ballot measures garnering the most discussion, Proposition 121 and Proposition 204 respectively had official supporters, but no official opposition.
Joe Yuhas, a member of the Open Elections/Open Government Committee which supports Prop. 121 from Phoenix, spoke on behalf of open primaries.
The proposal is simple in that it opens up the primary for all voters regardless of their political party affiliation and all candidates, Yuhas said. It would help get rid of the current hyperpartisanship that exists in the primaries today, he said.
This proposed change would alter the existing system which only allows voters to vote in their own party’s primary or if they are independents, they get to pick the ballot of a political party.
“You can tell a lot about a measure by who is in favor of it and who is against it,” Yuhas said. “Partisan politicians and lobbyists are against (this measure.)”
One key change that Yuhas touted in addition to the open primary was an equal number of required signatures for each person seeking to run for state elected office. The number of signatures required would be based on the total votes cast for all candidates for that specific office in the previous general election.
Resident Kay Lilland sounded skeptical that the measure would be a good thing.
“Here, Proposition 121 seems to wipe out political parties,” said Lilland, who is a member of the Mohave County Democratic Central Committee. She said if she wants to vote under Proposition 121, she could ask for a Republican primary ballot and vote for the “nastiest candidate” on the ballot to cause trouble.
One audience member pointed out that the top two up for an elected office in the primary could belong to the same political party. The problem is that independents don’t have a political party, he added.
Tami Roth, principal at Nautilus Elementary School, stood before the audience at the 2360 N. McCulloch Blvd., facility and explained her support for Prop. 204.
“We have very high academic expectations,” Roth said. But she said it becomes difficult at times to educate those children whose families are struggling in the economy.
“In the ever-changing economy, the emotional and physical needs of some children are being unmet,” Roth said. But at Nautilus, she said the teachers greet each student with a smile and “the best and brightest educators” work hard to do their job.
The measure takes what was designed as a temporary tax and makes it permanent.
Secretary of State officials and some in the audience seemed to conflict with how to describe the measure.
“The 1 cent sales tax does create new funds of what the revenue will go toward,” said Erik Reichstein with the Secretary of State’s office election services division.
With that in mind some called it a new tax.
But Reichstein said the state sales tax would stay the same under this plan.
At no point during the discussion of the various ballot measures did any heated debates break out and that was as intended.
Each measure garnered at least a few questions from the audience and some of the questions couldn’t be definitively answered.
Secretary of State Bennett is planning on personally attending two of the meetings — one in Sun City West and the other in Tucson, Viverto said.
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