Your time to speak to Constitution Review Commission

Posted by jesse shayne on May 05, 2017 at 10:14 AM

This article was written by Franklin Fear for

If you’re like me, and you would like to see open primary elections in Florida, then you'll want to participate in an historic gathering next week in Fort Myers.

The Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) will meet from 5-8 p.m. Wednesday at Suncoast Credit Union Arena on the campus of Florida SouthWestern State College.

Why is the CRC important? The state commission only meets once every 20 years. It engages in a year-long process focusing on Constitutional issues it believes require further consideration. If CRC members agree change is needed in Florida's Constitution, then one or more amendments will be placed on the following year’s General Election ballot (2018 in this case). If 60% of Florida voters approve an amendment, it’s added to the Florida Constitution.

If you support open primaries, this is your opportunity to talk directly with commission members. Fill out and submit a registration-to-speak form. If you can’t make the meeting, then share your thoughts with the Commission via email at [email protected]

Why do I believe Florida’s primary system needs change?

First, a large number of Floridians are closed out of primary voting because they aren't registered with a political party. As of December 2016, the Florida Division of Elections estimated that 3.1 million voters—over 25% of the state’s electorate—aren’t registered with a political party. That means 1 in 4 potential voters are closed out of primaries--except in episodic cases where candidates run unopposed in the general election.

Second, while the costs of primaries are borne by all Florida taxpayers, many taxpayers are restricted from voting because they aren't party registrants.

I’m not alone in wanting change. Nearly 90% of Floridians surveyed in a March ’17 poll support electoral change that expands democracy in Florida. 75% support the idea of including independent voters in Florida primaries; and over 70% would like to see the CRC put an open primaries initiative before voters.

What I’d like to see is a system where all candidates — regardless of party affiliation — appear on a single primary ballot. The top two vote-getters would advance to the general election.

That change would improve the system in at least two ways. First, it would give all voters equal access to primaries. Second, because voters would vote for the candidate of their choice—irrespective of party—more candidates would have to expand their reach, not just “speak to their base,” as happens so often currently.

Florida is not alone in the system that exists currently. There are about twenty other states that have some variation of “closed primaries.” But that situation also means that Florida has an opportunity to take the national lead in electoral reform. What better way to reform the system than to put the matter before voters in 2018?

To get to that point, though, the Constitution Revision Commission has to recommend it. That’s why it’s important to voice support on May 10 for open primaries.

As Frank Day of Santa Rose Beach said at the CRC's public hearing in Tallahassee: “Government works best if we all get a chance to participate.” Who can possibly disagree with that?