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POINT OF VIEW: ‘Top two’ primary system more inclusive

I am writing in response to the Aug. 2 editorial, “Wanted: Primary system that pulls pols to the middle.” I fully endorse the “top two” primary initiative and intend to add my voice to the campaign — both to get this initiative on the ballot and to have Florida voters pass it as a constitutional amendment in 2016.

Two reasons, in addition to those outlined in the editorial, make the “top two” initiative a compelling improvement over the current primary system. First, the editorial states that there would be no Democratic and Republican Party primaries in a “top two” system.

That is partially accurate: There would be no publicly funded Democratic or Republican Party primaries. Under the “top two” primary system, the political parties would remain able to nominate or designate a formal nominee for the primary election.

The difference is that under the “top two” primary system, all candidates who qualify would appear on the same ballot and would be able to compete for all votes, not just for votes from voters registered with a single party. In addition to a party “nominee,” all qualifying candidates could designate a party preference, or no preference, on the ballot.

The editorial touches, but does not focus, on what I believe is the main attraction of the “top two” system: It vastly broadens the pool of voters who can participate in the primary election. The “top two” system allows, and even encourages, all registered voters — Democratic and Republican party loyalists, small-party-affiliated voters, and no-party affiliated voters — to vote in what is often the most important election: the primary.

It makes the primary election more competitive by making it more open and accessible. No longer would a small, sometimes insular, group of voters (either Democrats or Republicans) dictate the results of an election meant to produce public servants who serve a much larger and more diverse constituency.

My support and advocacy for the “top two” primary system is grounded in my experience as an elected official. But, much more significantly, it stems from my role as a voter. I want, as a voter, to be more relevant in the election process — with a wider array of choices — and I suspect many other would-be voters share that hope.


Editor’s note: Michael McAuliffe served as Palm Beach County state attorney from 2008 to 2012.

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