Floridians who question the wisdom of Amendment 3 on our November ballot, dubbed by its backers the “All Voters Vote” initiative, like to describe its central concept as a “jungle primary.” This makes the prospect sound exotic, and also perilous.
The jungle reference found currency in the 1980s, when a lot of states and municipalities were seeking ways to open up their electoral process to unaffiliated voters. It brings to mind cheetahs taking down zebras, or perhaps two silverback gorillas battling for primacy. But the term “top-two primary,” while a lot less exciting, more accurately describes the option that will come before Florida voters for their approval.
Are there better ways to reform our political system so that more citizens have a say about who runs the government, and so that politicians have greater incentives to serve all Floridians instead of their enthusiastic base supporters? Maybe. A truly open system, which allows any registered voter to request a Republican or Democratic primary ballot – or a modified version that would only offer that choice to unaffiliated voters – might be a less radical alternative for Florida. After all, that’s what we thought we were getting with a constitutional amendment back in 1997, before party operatives found a way to close the loophole with bogus write-in candidates.