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‘Top two’ primaries in Florida: The way to go

On Election Day, have you ever looked at a ballot and thought a list of hemorrhoid-removal techniques had more-appealing options?

If so, you’re probably a Floridian.

Perhaps you’ve tried to vote in a primary only to find you can’t — because you’ve been shut out of your own democracy.

That’s common for Floridians as well.

But I have good news, fellow Sunshine Staters.

There is a movement afoot to expand your options at the polls — and encourage better candidates to run.

Most important, it would give you the opportunity to vote in every election, every time.

The “All Voters Vote” amendment, which is now collecting signatures to get on next year’s ballot, would implement something called a “top two” primary.

It is simple. It is different. It is good.

Right now, Democrats and Republicans first vote to select their nominees in the primaries.

In “top two” primaries — versions of which already exist in such states as Louisiana, Washington and California — everyone votes on all candidates. There are no partisan primaries.

Basically, in state and congressional races, you would look at a ballot, consider all the candidates listed — Democrats, Republicans, Green Party, independents, whatever — and select your favorite one. Then, assuming no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the two candidates with the most votes — the “top two” — go on to the general.

It’s that simple.

Often, you will have a Democrat and Republican as the finalists. But if enough voters think the two best candidates are in the same party, that could happen, too. Regardless, you end up with the two most popular candidates, regardless of party affiliation — which is the way it should be.

Among the benefits:

  • Less extremism. Many times, the candidates furthest left or right win, because they only have to appeal to members of their own party. “Top two” primaries force candidates to try to appeal to everyone — because everyone gets a vote.
  • No one is shut out. Though unaffiliated voters are the fastest-growing segment of the population, they can’t vote in partisan primaries — which are often where races are decided in gerrymandered districts.
  • More involvement. Last fall, only 13 percent of Orange County voters cast ballots in the primary. That’s partly because people are shut out of so many races. Open primaries are designed to boost participation because everyone gets to vote on everything.

The vested interests and party operatives hate the idea of shaking up the system (which is even more reason to like it).

They like the status quo, where a tiny percentage of citizens vote in poorly attended party primaries that end up deciding the entire races. Micro-elections are easier to control.

The “top two” opens up the process, giving power to the people … something that threatens the moneyed interests who like to handpick their candidates.

Some people are already objecting, screaming about how this process would allow Democrats to vote in Republican primaries or vice versa — and that’s not fair!

With all due respect, these people are dolts. Or at least uninformed.

In “top two” primaries, there are no party primaries — at least not ones funded by taxpayers, which is another big improvement.

Right now, taxpayers fund primaries for private parties. That’s whacked out. You shouldn’t be forced to fund elections you can’t vote in. It’s taxation without participation.

If private parties still want to get together on their own to agree whom they like best, they can still do so.

“All Voters Vote” is a bipartisan coalition of political veterans fed up with hyperpartisanship. It includes Jim Smith, a Republican and former attorney general, and Gene Stearns, a Democratic former campaign manager for Gov. Reubin Askew.

“This is the next phase of democracy that is sweeping the nation,” Stearns said. “If we’re going to go teaching the rest of world about democracy, we’ve got to do a better job of it ourselves.”

And any system that has the majority of citizens not taking part — and which physically prevents many from voting — is no kind of model at all.

To read the full petition and ballot text for yourself, visit

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