The fastest growing segment of voters in Florida are increasingly choosing no party affiliation. These independent voters might soon have the opportunity to vote for a nonpartisan, open primary system in the 2016 election.
A bipartisan group filed the All Voters Vote amendment with the Florida Division of Elections on Wednesday in the hope of garnering enough signatures to place it on the 2016 ballot.
If approved by voters, the All Voters Vote amendment would implement a nonpartisan, top-two open primary similar to the systems in California and Washington state for congressional races. All voters and candidates, regardless of party affiliation, would participate on a single ballot and the top two vote-getters would move on to the general election.
The goal is to give all voters, regardless of political affiliation, equal and meaningful access to all integral stages of the public election process.
“This isn’t about policy, it’s about power,” John Opdycke, president of Open Primaries, said.
“Whether it’s a red state or a blue state, you end up with legislators who are more open to hearing from all voters. That doesn’t make them more moderate or centrist. It makes them more accountable.”
“The two parties are becoming increasingly extreme and increasingly shrill because the people who control the outcomes dictate what you have to do to be nominated to a particular party,” Gene Stearns was quoted in the Tampa Bay Times.
“Whether it’s a red state or a blue state, you end up with legislators who are more open to hearing from all voters.”
— John Opdycke, president of Open Primaries
Partisan control over elections is making politics worse and governments more damaged than they already are, Stearns argues. Supporters of the reform contend that the main opposition to nonpartisan elections comes from the party machines who fear reduced power in the primary process.
There is one cause for concern in the amendment. It proposes a similar top-two system for state races. However, if a candidate receives 50 percent plus one of the primary vote, that candidate wins the election and no general election would be held.
Primary elections have notoriously low turnout. In 2014, voter turnout for the primary election in Florida was just 18 percent compared to 51 percent in the general election. The consequence of the 50 percent plus one provision is it doesn’t maximize the number of voters empowered by the nonpartisan election system and less than 10 percent of the electorate could end up deciding state elections.
Still, the All Voters Vote amendment is just the latest example of the growing appeal of nonpartisan election reform nationwide. Arizona voters may have another opportunity to vote on the nonpartisan, top-two open primary in 2016. U.S. Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) also supports using the nonpartisan, top-two open primary for all congressional and senatorial elections nationwide, a provision included in his Open Our Democracy Act.