Members of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus spoke in opposition Tuesday to a constitutional amendment they think would harm minority representation in the Legislature.
In a Zoom conference with reporters, caucus members shared their concerns about Amendment 3. The amendment would allow registered voters, beginning in 2024, regardless of party affiliation, to cast a ballot in primary elections for the Legislature, Governor, and Cabinet.
It would also create a single primary race for each office. Candidates from all parties would appear on the same ballot for an office and only the top two candidates would advance to the General Election.
Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson warned the amendment would dilute the Voting Rights Act and Fair Districts Amendment.
“It totally separates the body of people from the representative that looks like them and best represents their interests,” Gibson said, adding: “If you’re for Amendment 3, you’re not for the minority community, period.”
Glen Burhans is the chairman of All Voters Vote, a political committee advocating for Amendment 3. In a statement, Burhans disputed the caucus’ claims.
“We respectfully and strongly disagree,” Burhans said. “Today, approximately 1 million Black and Hispanic voters are denied the ability to vote in meaningful elections simply because they refuse to be forced to join a political party. That denial of the right to vote is wrong. Democracy works best with the greater participation, not less. The All Voters Vote Amendment will ensure that no registered voter can be denied the right to vote in these taxpayer-funded elections.”
Speaking to Florida Politics in June, Burhans argued closed primaries have contributed to voter isolation, dissatisfaction, and divisive gridlock in Florida. He believes Amendment 3 would force politicians to place constituents above party allegiance.
“When elected leaders have to answer to all voters in their respective districts, they can put their constituents, their own district and their own consciences ahead of party politics,” he told Florida Politics.
The conference was also attended by former Rep. and People over Profits Chairman Sean Shaw.
Shaw warned that while other states such as California and Louisiana have similar election structures to those proposed by Amendment 3, the system is not appropriate for Florida.
He pointed out if the top two system were in place in 2018, Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam would have advanced to the General Election.
“Florida is not California in one very specific way: California is overwhelmingly Democrat,” he said. “Their statewide offices are always Democrat on Democrat races. Florida is not. As the people on this call know all too well: we’re a 50-50 state.”
Meanwhile, Burhans counters that Shaw’s premise is fundamentally flawed. He added that closely drawn districts would become more competitive under Amendment 3.
Amendment 3 is sponsored and financed by healthcare executive Mike Fernandez.