Though there is considerable interest this summer in who the next governor of Florida will be, the fact is that more than three million people – a quarter of all registered voters in the Sunshine State – are banned from participating in the Aug. 28 primary election.
That’s because they’re a part of the fastest growing part of the electorate – non-party-affiliated voters (NPAs) – who are independent of the two major political parties in Florida.
Now, a group wants to change that.
Florida Fair and Open Primaries (FFAOP), a non- partisan organization, has launched two petitions for a state Constitutional amendment on the 2020 ballot to open the primaries to all voters in the state.
“At issue is whether Florida citizens believe the fundamental right to vote should be extended to all registered voters,” Steve Hough, director of FFAOP, said in a statement. “As the vast majority of races are decided in a primary election, by a tiny fraction of the electorate, we believe they will agree.”
One petition seeks to introduce an open primary, while the other would prohibit public resources from being used for primary elections if all registered voters aren’t able to vote in a primary.
Florida is one of just nine states in the country with closed primaries, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures. Other states have some version of either a semi-open or semi-closed primary, while 15 states have a pure open primary system, which means that registered voters can cast a vote across party lines, or, if they are NPA, outside their party.
In general, members of the Republican and Democratic parties in Florida have opposed such proposals, claiming it offers the opportunity for “mischief.”
Democrats for example, cite Rush Limbaugh’s “Operation Chaos” proposal back in 2008, where he urged Republican voters in open primary states to vote in the Democratic party presidential primary that year between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
“We believe voters should have been afforded the opportunity to determine the fate of an open primaries amendment,” FFAOP director Steve Hough said.
The group must get 766,200 verified signatures to the secretary of state’s office by February 2020 in order to qualify for the November 2020 ballot.
There are currently 3,472,688 registered voters in Florida who are not affiliated with the Republican or Democratic parties.
July 30 is the deadline for voters to register for Florida’s Aug. 28 closed primary, and they must choose either the Democratic of Republican party.