Should Florida open up primary elections? New poll says yes.

voting booth
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A new poll says there’s substantial support for opening up Florida’s primary elections to independent voters.

Why does it matter?

Right now, if you’re not a registered Democrat or Republican, you are locked out of voting in primary elections.

The survey of 615 voters in Florida taken by Public Policy Polling says that 70 percent of Floridians – including super majorities of Republican, Democratic and independent voters – want the Florida Republican and Democratic Parties to open their 2020 presidential primaries to non-party affiliated voters.

Florida is one of just nine states that completely eliminates “cross-over” voting by members of other parties or independent or unaffiliated voters, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

An effort is underway to put a Constitutional amendment on the 2020 ballot that creates an open primary system in Florida. That’s being led by a group called Florida Fair and Open Primaries, who along with the national group Open Primaries, paid for the survey by the North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling.

Florida Fair and Open Primaries is also pushing a concurrent Constitutional amendment that would implement a specific style of open primaries, called a “Top Two” system.

In that scenario, all candidates would appear on a single ballot, and all registered voters would be allowed to vote in each primary election. The two candidates receiving the highest number of votes for each office would then appear on the general election ballot.

California uses a top two primary system, as does Washington state. Nebraska also uses the system, though only for state legislature elections.

The survey shows that 64 percent of Floridians support a top two primary system for state and federal offices.

For years, the largest group of voters being registered in Florida has been non-party-affiliated, or independent voters. They’re currently about 27 percent of the Florida electorate.

The poll shows that 69 percent of Floridians surveyed believe the current closed primary system is unfair to independent voters.

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

“Millions of Floridians are being locked out of the primary process, despite the fact that many elections are decided in the primary. It is my firm belief that adopting a Top Two Open Primary will not only provide all citizens an equal opportunity to participate, it will enable our representatives to be more accountable to all.”

“During the Constitution Revision Commission hearings in 2017 and 2018, there was an outpouring of support for reforming the primary system,” said John Opdycke, President of Open Primaries.

“One young man drove from the Keys to Miami to attend a hearing and share his experience of going to vote in 2016 and being turned away because he didn’t want to join a party. What you see is that this was not a fluke. There is deep and broad support for scrapping Florida’s outdated and unfair system of closed partisan primaries.”

The survey of 615 registered voters was conducted from January 11-13 by Public Policy Polling. You can the entire survey here.

 

 

 

 

 

Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry has spent the past 18 years covering news and politics in the Sunshine State, most recently with FloridaPolitics.com. He worked for five years as the political editor of Creative Loafing in Tampa, and before that he was the assistant news director at WMNF radio, where he served as creator/anchor/producer of the hour-long WMNF Evening News. A San Francisco native, Mitch began his career at KPFA Radio in Berkeley in the 1990's.

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