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Proposal To Create Open Primaries in Florida Moves Forward, But With Issues

| January 26, 2018

There'd be n need to split ballots during primaries. (© FlaglerLive)

There’d be n need to split ballots during primaries. (© FlaglerLive)

An effort to let voters decide if they want open primary elections advanced Friday, but moving to such a “top-two” system continued to draw questions from members of the state Constitution Revision Commission.


Commission member Bill Schifino, a Tampa attorney, initially proposed allowing unaffiliated voters to cast ballots in Republican or Democratic primaries. But Schifino altered the proposal (Proposal 62) to put all candidates seeking the same office — if there are more than two candidates — into a single primary regardless of party affiliation. The top two vote-getters would run in the general election.

The top-two proposal, already in use by California, Nebraska and Washington, would also allow state parties to list on the ballot the candidate they “endorse.”

Schifino said he continues to push the idea of an open-primary because of comments commissioners heard throughout the state, where 27 percent of voters are registered without any party and the majority of millennials are registering with no party affiliation.

“It is inevitable, we know where this is heading,” Schifino said. “The predictions are that within five years the NPAs will outnumber or at least equal the Ds and Rs. So the question is, how do we engage them in the primary voting process.”

Schifino’s revised proposal was approved Friday in a 6-3 vote by the Constitution Revision Commission’s Ethics and Elections Committee. The commission, which meets once every 20 years, is reviewing proposed constitutional amendments that could go before voters in November.

The top-two proposal measure next is slated to go to the commission’s General Provisions Committee. Still, several members said Friday more work will be needed to keep their support.

Commissioner Brecht Heuchan, the founder of a political consulting firm in Tallahassee, said the proposal could have the “amazing” outcomes supporters predict. But he said the changes will be exploited by political insiders.

“The political operatives in our state … the lengths in which they will go for the efforts of their clients, they will use the law in a legal fashion to create an environment that is in the best interest of their client,” Heuchan said. “That’s what they do. I know that’s what they do because I used to do that.”

While commissioners Frank Kruppenbacher and Chris Smith said they have problems with the current proposal, they would like to see work continue on it. They pointed to public support.

“This is something that was brought up in every stop on the road,” said Smith, a former Democratic state senator from Fort Lauderdale. “I’ll hold my nose and vote for it today, so the conversation can continue. But I disagree with it, and don’t like it. If it makes it to the floor, I’ll probably be voting against it. But I don’t want to end the conversation today, especially with us going back on the road.”

Nebraska uses top-two primary state legislative contests, which are all nonpartisan. The Public Policy Institute of California released a study in December that found strong support for its state’s 7-year-old open-primary system.

“I think this is a wake-up call for (the parties) and we have a couple of months to see if they wake up,” said Constitution Revision Commission member Sherry Plymale, a former Republican Party of Florida vice chairwoman from Palm City, in voting to support the proposal on Friday.

Florida Republican Chairman Blaise Ingoglia, a state House member from Spring Hill, called the proposal “horrible” when asked for comment after the meeting.

“While the Republican Party of Florida has no official stance on this yet, I can say with confidence that this proposal would be wholeheartedly rejected by party leaders statewide,” Ingoglia said. “I don’t think Republicans want Democrats picking our nominee, nor do I think Democrats want Republicans picking their nominee. That’s akin to Burger King picking McDonald’s menu items and vice versa.”

–Jim Turner, News Service of Florida

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9 Responses for “Proposal To Create Open Primaries in Florida Moves Forward, But With Issues”

  1. palmcoaster says:

    Good! We have enough newcomers from other states that logically complain about the nonsense of close primaries. where we can only vote on the party that we are registered. If we forgot to change parties with enough time I believe is 30 days before the primaries then we are sc…ed.

  2. Coyote says:

    “I don’t think Republicans want Democrats picking our nominee, nor do I think Democrats want Republicans picking their nominee. That’s akin to Burger King picking McDonald’s menu items and vice versa.”

    As one of those NPA voters, I don’t think I want the Democrats OR the Republicans picking MY nominee. We all saw what a great selection of choices we had in the last Presidential election.

    And NO, it is Not akin to BK picking McDs menu and vice versa. It’s more like the Public deciding what BK AND McD should have on the menu. Candidates should be nominated based on what they can do for their entire constituency, not on what they can do for their party. And, if it results in the decline and death of the two-party stranglehold .. errr … I mean system, then so be it.

  3. Stranger in a strange land says:

    What a shock! A sitting partisan member of the legislature doesn’t like the idea of open primaries? All Florida politicians are “children” of the closed primary system and “safe” gerrymandered districts. The only threat they have is losing the primary to a even more extreme candidate in the primary. The Republican party will fight this tooth and nail. The combination of closed primaries and gerrymandered districts is what has the state and the country in the mess we are in. Polarization, demonization, and gridlock are the result. Candidates that have the audacity to consider compromise and be the loyal opposition stand no chance of wilnning closed primaries but would hold great appeal with independant voters. The political establishment will fight open primaries to the death. If you support open primaries contact the Constitutional Review Comittee and voice your opinion. Here is a link. https://flcrc.gov/about/getinvolved

  4. Pogo says:

    @ A Good Idea

    And even better:

    FairVote
    http://www.fairvote.org/

    Ranked Choice Voting
    http://www.rankedchoicevoting.org/

    “…Florida Republican Chairman Blaise Ingoglia, a state House member from Spring Hill, called the proposal “horrible” when asked for comment after the meeting…”

    If you needed any explanation as to why Open Primaries is a good idea, Ingoglia provided it. Spoilers, dirty trick artists, fat cats buying elections – aka Republicans – are opposed to Open Primaries. What are they afraid of?

  5. tulip says:

    I have always thought that voters registered as Independent/NPA voters should be able to vote in all the primaries. There are thousands upon thousands of them all over the country and to deny them the right to vote in the primaries smacks of descrimination. If they had been allowed to vote in the last primary, we might have had a different turnout than what we wound up with.

    In Flagler county primary of 2016 over 22,000 people were denied the right to vote in primaries and a I think it was even more than that in previous ones.

  6. Layla says:

    In my humble opinion, BOTH parties have the right to choose their own candidates. If you want to add more parties, add them. When you open wide, you make room for people to eliminate people just because they don’t like the party. This is not a move forward and a very weak excuse for why more people are not showing up to vote. This is no guarantee that anything will change. If I want to select a candidate because of what he/she represents by party, I should have that right. It also is the only way we can hold these parties accountable.

  7. RickG says:

    I agree with tulip/coyote Allowing NPA’s to vote in any primary would cause both major parties to become pragmatic and not so ideological.

  8. Stranger in a strange land says:

    Layla, it is virtually impossible to form a viable new political party. If this were a representative democracy (Like countries that have a parlamentary system) I would agree with you but our system is a constitutional republic. That, combined with the fact that huge amounts of money are required to advertise and run for office in the US create a situation where those in power stay in power. Why do you think there are so many people registered as NPA? It is because they do not agree with either party’s views. If you add the people who are not registered because they don’t identify with either party you have a significant majority. You would think with those numbers at least one or two parties could tap into those people. But it hasn’t happened because the system is stacked against new parties and ideas. Closed primaries have us polarized and demonizing the opposition. Let’s try something else. This isn’t working.

  9. december says:

    Would love to see the closed primary system changed lived in five different states over the years and Florida was the first with this system. All registered voters regardless of party affiliation should be allowed to vote in all primaries and elections after all the person or persons elected will be representing all registered voters, supposedly anyhow. JMO

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