Posted by jesse shayne on December 18, 2017 at 9:00 AM
Leaders of the Movement: Steve Hough
By Stephanie Geier
In an exciting victory for Floridians, a constitutional amendment was recently proposed to open the state’s primaries to the 3.4 million independent voters who are currently locked out of them. If the proposal gets the majority of the Commission’s support, it will go to the 2018 ballot—and then it’s up to the voters to decide.
One of the main people behind this grassroots effort was Steve Hough, director of the volunteer-based organization Florida Fair and Open Primaries (FFAOP).
Steve took over as Director of FFAOP last March. A retired accountant who spent 22 years working at a printing company, Steve never had direct experience working in politics, but has long been frustrated by it -- especially as an independent voter.
For instance, one aspect of politics that currently frustrates him is Florida’s term limits -- in which an outgoing legislator’s endorsement essentially ensures that a certain candidate will win the legislator’s seat. Because non-party affiliated voters can’t vote, there’s a greater chance that voters will elect the candidate endorsed by the outgoing legislator.
But Steve thinks this would likely not be the case under open primaries.
“If [non-party affiliated voters] are interested enough to vote, then it could change that to where the incumbent just does not basically appoint his successor,” he said. “...I think more candidates would be willing to run as independents, and more voters might become more interested in voting in the primaries because they see it's not gonna be the party's pick. So I think it could have a dramatic effect on who goes to the legislature.”
After retirement, Steve wanted to create change for frustrated Floridians like himself. After becoming Director of FFAOP, he met with OP President John Opdycke and informed him of Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission. They decided to seize the opportunity and spearhead a campaign to push for an open primaries amendment—and the rest is history.
Since taking the helm, Steve has grown FFAOP’s base of volunteers, helping the movement gain momentum and taking advantage of the rare chance to amend Florida’s constitution.
When Steve took over, he was given a small email database of about 100-150 people who had expressed interest in FFOP—and since then, this number has expanded to about 400. Together with Open Primaries, these volunteers collected signatures for a petition to support an open primaries amendment. Over 9,000 people (and counting) signed the petition—and Steve now considers them “part of the group.”
“Back when we had our group before the CRC process, we just had a bunch of guys saying, ‘this would be great...I wish somebody would do something,’” said Steve. “But now the CRC process has given us the vehicle to do something, and the 2016 election was motivation for a lot of people to really get involved. They didn't like what happened. They didn't like what they were seeing.”
While the proposal would not establish the nonpartisan, top-two primary system that remains FFAOP’s long term goal, Steve still sees the proposal for partisan open primaries as a victory.
“I'm just really excited about what we started with and where we're at now,” he said. “It's very exciting.”