Should Florida Hold Open Primaries?

Should Florida hold open primaries?  

Excerpt: Pop quiz: What is Florida’s fastest growing political party over the past decade? 

If you said Democrats or Republicans, you guessed wrong. Sorry, it was a trick question. The state’s fastest growing political party is “No Party Affiliation.” More than a quarter of registered voters choose not to align with either major party, and it’s time for the state to stop disenfranchising them. 

Florida currently forbids non-affiliated voters from voting in partisan primaries. Yet many states have had great success opening their primaries to give all voters a voice in important elections. 

The idea is slowly gaining steam in Florida. Most recently, former GOP mega-donor Mike Fernandez endorsed it.

Bottom Line: Currently 15 states hold open primaries as is being advocated by the Miami Herald's editorial board. In Florida, we’re one of only nine states with the most restrictive “closed” primary status. The other 26 states have blended versions of these two concepts, like leaving it up to the state’s political parties for example.  

I’ve long held and articulated the view that I want the best possible candidates for all political parties being represented. The reason being that someone will win, and every election has consequences. Having completely open primaries encourages participation and engagement by NPA’s for sure and might potentially mitigate the risk of the political “extremes” emerging. 

For example, with Andrew Gillum having won the Democrat’s primary with only 34% of the vote, would he have likely emerged the winner had left-leaning NPA’s weighed in? Most Democrats I’ve spoken with, at the party level, don’t think so and most feel as though Gwen Graham would’ve beaten Ron DeSantis. We’ll never know but it’s certainly possible and that’s what this conversation is really about by the way if media were honest with you about the intent.  

Regardless, there’s validity to the idea in my view. Increased engagement and more highly vetted candidates are generally positive in my view. However, in completely open primaries you do have the possibility for shenanigans we’ve seen attempted from time to time. This is when a particular political party runs a generally uncontested primary on their side and goes all in on attempting to elect, a perceived flawed candidate on the other side. That’s not a positive. I’d be supportive of a blended system that leaves it in the hands of the party representatives at the state level. This would allow the potential for flexibility over time without having to change laws. 

Photo by: Joe Skipper/Getty Images

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