Put open primaries initiative before voters
The Florida Constitution Revision Commission is convened every 20 years. It consists of 36 appointees plus the state attorney general. The governor appoints 15, the Florida Senate president appoints nine, the speaker of the Florida House of Representatives appoints nine and the chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court appoints three.
The commission, whose purpose is to consider initiatives to go on the 2018 ballot, has begun holding public hearings. The first was in Orlando, followed by Miami, Boca Raton and Tallahassee. One is being held today in Gainesville and more are scheduled over the next few weeks in other parts of the state (visit flcrc.gov for details).
The hearings give citizens an opportunity to provide direct input on various issues to the commission. If you believe our state constitution needs changes, please plan to attend in order to have your voice heard. As a volunteer for Florida Fair and Open Primaries, I’m using my two minutes to make a case for a top two open primary.
More than 3.1 million voters are registered with no party affiliation, according to the Florida Division of Election’s website. That’s over a quarter of the electorate, and we’re barred from voting in primary elections. Due to past gerrymandering, safe districts still exist for both parties. The majority of races are actually determined in the primary, not the general election.
Language adopted 20 years ago allows everyone to vote in a primary when the winner will be unopposed in a general election, but the law is being circumvented when parties insert bogus write-in candidates. In so doing, they close the primary to all others.
While we support closing the write-in loophole, we take it a step further. We want all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, to appear on a single primary ballot with all voters voting for their preferred candidates. The top two vote getters would then advance to the general election.
We not only believe this is necessary to give all voters equal access; we believe it will force candidates to appeal to a broader base. This in turn would result in less partisanship and better policy making.
Furthermore, primary elections are publicly funded (with tax dollars), while political parties claim to be private associations. There are no requirements for joining a party (applications, dues, loyalty oaths, etc.) other than checking a box on a voter registration form. If that is the only requirement for becoming a “member” of a political party, one must ask why that is a requirement to participate.
In a March 2017 poll, 92 percent of Florida voters agreed their elected officials should put the interests of Florida voters ahead of the interests of their own political party. Ninety three of Florida voters agreed their elected leaders should bring opposing interests together to create good policies for the state and 87 percent of voters supported electoral changes that expand democracy in Florida.
Seventy four percent of Floridians want independent voters included in primary elections, and 73 percent of Floridians — including majorities of Republican, Democratic and independent voters — want the Constitution Revision Commission to put an open primaries initiative before the voters.
As more and more people register to vote without a party affiliation, the cries for open primaries will only grow louder. Now is the time to act on this measure!
To learn more about a top two open primary, please visit www.FloridaFairAndOpenPrimaries.org. Please fill out the contact form if you would like more information about our organization and what you can do to advance the cause of independent voting rights.