Posted by Jesse Shayne on March 29, 2017 at 4:08 PM
Groups urge Constitution Revision Commission to put open primaries on 2018 ballot
Several groups advocating for open primaries in Florida want the Constitution Revision Commission to put an initiative on the November 2018 ballot to allow millions of independent voters to participate in primary elections.
The groups, led by New York-based Open Primaries, released a poll this week that shows almost three in four Florida voters favor open primaries in the Sunshine State. The Constitution Revision Commission is holding its first public hearing later today in Orlando.
“If the Constitution Revision Commission is listening to Florida voters, they will put a referendum on the 2018 ballot for open primaries,” said John Opdycke, president of Open Primaries. “The big question is will they listen. There is a growing sense among voters in Florida and across the country that no one is really listening.”
Open Primaries and two other Florida-based groups argue that the state’s closed primary excludes millions of independent voters from having a voice in electing public officials.
The poll found that 74 percent of Florida voters want open primaries to allow independent Florida voters to participate in primaries. Florida is one of 19 states with closed primaries, meaning only registered voters can vote in their party’s primary elections.
The latest voter registration data shows that more than 3.1 million people in Florida are No-Party-Affiliation voters, representing about 24 percent of all voters. Registered Democratic voters topped 4.9 million (38 percent), while registered Republican voters was nearly 4.5 million (35 percent). About 347,000 were registered with minor parties. Florida has nearly 13 million registered voters.
The poll of 735 registered Florida voters was carried out from March 12-14 by North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling. It was commissioned by Open Primaries, Progress for All and Florida Fair and Open Primaries.
Tim Canova, who chairs Progress for All and ran unsuccessfully in a Democratic primary last summer against longtime U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, said “open primaries are good for democracy because they encourage full citizen participation in our elections.”
“Since both Democrats and Republicans often need independent voters to win at the general election stage, they should stop making it so difficult for such voters to join the electoral process” he said.
Steve Hough, of Florida Fair and Open Primaries, said many elections are being decided in the primary and that both major political parties “have hijacked the limited legal rights independents already have by … inserting bogus write-in candidates that effectively negate the clear intent of our law.”
Hough’s is referring to a state law that allows independent voters to cast ballots in a primary if one of the parties is not fielding a general election candidate. He notes that the parties get around the law by fielding write-in candidates that, in effect, keep the primary closed.
The full survey can be found here.