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Open Primary Question Goes to Voters

The state's high court decided today that voters will get a chance in November to decide if they want to jettison the current system of nominating candidates for office.

At a hearing last week, foes of Proposition 121 presented evidence that some of the petitions were circulated by felons and others ineligible to gather signatures. Attorney Mike Liburdi argued that leaves proponents short of the 259,213 needed to qualify for the ballot. But Judge John Rea cut Liburdi off after he reached the two-hour limit set for each side -- before Liburdi had a chance to introduce all the petitions in evidence -- and short of the number of signatures he needed to disqualify. Liburdi asked the Arizona Supreme Court to order Rea to give him more time. But Justice Scott Bales said Liburdi knew up front how much time he had. And Bales said Rea did nothing wrong by cutting him off. Liburdi said this is the end of the line -- at least as far as court fights.

"The Supreme Court's ruled and we read the order," Liburdi said. "And I think now it's time to start getting the opposition campaign in high gear."

Under the current system, candidates for statewide, legislative and county supervisor posts are nominated in partisan primaries. Then each party's candidates face off in the general election.

This change, if approved in November, would have all candidates for each office run in a single primary regardless of party affiliation. Then only the top two vote-getters would advance to November, even if both are from the same party.

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