OP-ED We’re ready and eager to vote, but we can’t because we’re NPAs - Open Primaries
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OP-ED We’re ready and eager to vote, but we can’t because we’re NPAs

Posted by Russell Daniels on August 31, 2020 at 9:23 AM

written by Dariel Cruz Rodriguez & Elena Ashburn for the Miami Herald

We both pre-registered to vote recently. Our party? No party. We pre-registered as NPAs — no party affiliation — following in the footsteps of 3.7 million of other Floridians. As NPAs, we won’t be tied to any party. In short, we are not satisfied with either the Democratic and Republican parties and how they run the country. More and more young people like us — including young people of color — don’t want to join a political party either.

But in Florida, one can’t vote in state primaries without a major-party affiliation. In these elections, there are two primaries, Democratic and Republican, in which only members of those parties are allowed to vote. These closed primaries offer no opportunity for NPAs to cast a ballot. Instead, we must wait until the general election to vote.

By then, however, it’s often too late. Most elections in Florida are decided in the primaries. The general elections can be so uncompetitive, that many races are uncontested.

Even if a voter is affiliated with one of the two major parties, their options are limited in the closed-primary system. If Democrats and Republicans want to vote for a candidate they like from a different party, they can’t. That means Floridians can’t vote vote for whom they consider the best candidate. That’s undemocratic. Only two-thirds of the voting population can vote, everyone pays for those elections. Sounds a lot like “taxation without representation.”

A fairer approach, called “top-two” primaries not only enfranchise many young people of color who are NPA’s, but also increase minority representation. When California adopted top-two primaries, minority representation went up. Leaders such as Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic nominee for vice president, have a better chance of being elected in this system. That’s why so many leaders of color, such as U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna, a California Democrat, are supporters. He wrote that, since his state adopted top-two primaries, “A better political culture has emerged, with more and more legislators governing for the people they represent, not just special interests and party bosses in proverbial smoke-filled rooms.”

The demand for open primaries in America is rising as the younger generations become less partisan and reject party membership as a prerequisite of voting. With millennials now the largest group of voters in the country, and more and more Gen Zers like us joining them, the need for primaries that let all voters vote regardless of political affiliation will only increase. Without open primaries, we risk silencing the voices of countless young voters in Florida eager to do their civic duty.

In November, we can fix this. Amendment 3 is on the ballot, which would implement the top-two system. Instead of holding two partisan primaries, the state would hold one open primary where all the candidates (with their party affiliation) are on the ballot, and all voters can vote. The top two candidates in the primary would then move onto the general election. It lets independent voters who were previously shut out of primaries vote, and it lets Democrats and Republicans vote for whomever they think is the best candidate.

Amendment 3 is simple: It lets all voters vote. For too long, that’s been impossible for so many Floridians. How can we make our voices heard if we are purposely being excluded from the conversation? Our votes only count if we are allowed to vote in the first place.

Vote for Amendment 3 this November.

Dariel Cruz Rodriguez is a sophomore at Colonial High School in Orlando where he is student body treasurer. Elena Ashburn is a high school junior in Broward County. She is the co-founder of Bloom: Empowering the Military Teen. They are the co-founders of Students for Open Primaries.

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