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People are saying they want open primaries

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Joe Henderson: Florida open primaries would let every voter have a say

“There is no doubt Florida can do much better with its statewide elections.”

There is no doubt Florida can do much better with its statewide elections. And the people say open primaries are an excellent way to start.

The people are correct.

A Public Policy Polling survey in Florida Politics found 70 percent support for allowing all voters to participate in primaries.  Only 14 states require party affiliation to vote in a primary.  Florida has had a closed system since 1913.

Advocacy groups for open primaries paid for the poll. It basically reinforced what we already knew. Florida’s system disenfranchises the state’s 3.5 million registered voters with no party affiliation.

The Constitution Revision Commission last year considered the issue.  Former Florida Bar President Bill Schifino proposed the top two vote-getters regardless of party advance to the general election. That system is modeled after California.

It didn’t get a single approval vote in committee.

Still, there must be a better way.

“If the parties want to continue to have taxpayers fund their primaries, then everyone should be able to participate. It’s that simple,” said Steve Hough, Chair of Florida Fair and Open Primaries.

The voter turnout for the primary was about 27 percent. That’s about half the number that turned out for the general election. Primary voters generally tend to be true believers in a party’s ideology. They are less likely to support moderate candidates.

The current system gives those folks a lot of power.

It was painful watching Adam Putnam play to the Republican primary base by channeling Rambo.

Andrew Gillum rode a progressive wave to an upset in the Democratic primary.

Would Putnam have run a different campaign if was appealing to a broader electorate? Probably.

Could Gillum have held off Gwen Graham in an open primary? We’ll never know for sure, but it’s debatable.

Maybe Graham would have beaten Ron DeSantis.

That’s another thing we’ll never know for sure.

Here is what we do know.

People are disgusted. That’s why many choose no affiliation. They shouldn’t surrender their right to vote in the primary.

Full disclosure.

I had no party affiliation for years. That changed last summer when I registered Democrat. I wanted a say in who was nominated. I’d go back to unaffiliated if primaries were open.

Like I said up top, Florida needs to step up its game on elections.

We know about the problems in Broward and Palm Beach last year. The 2020 presidential Armageddon will put Florida under a microscope again.

But we also need to have an eye on 2022. That’s when the next round of major statewide elections will occur. When those primaries roll around, it would be nice if every registered voter had a say.

Written By

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jim Rosica, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Dan McAuliffe, Michael Moline, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
Email: Peter@FloridaPolitics.com
Phone: (727) 642-3162
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St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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