Today’s entry: Hi Brian, we went to vote today and very surprisingly only ones on ballet were judges and school board members. To my surprise they don’t list who is a democrat or republication what a shame. No other names are on the list.
Bottom Line: For those of us who’ve lived here for quite some time it’s easy to take for granted what it’s like to be new a new voter in Florida. In our 50 laboratories of democracy (and D.C.), there are 51 sets of rules and regs pertaining to elections. While there are often similarities between them. Literally no two states have the exact same election laws and processes. What’s more, Florida’s a bit of an outlier in the way our August primary elections are conducted. We’re one of only 13 states (and D.C.) to hold closed primary elections, so if you’ve relocated from another state, the odds are the way Florida’s August primaries are conducted is new to you. That means there’s a bit of an adjustment and in some instances, a learning curve, which goes into learning what your role is as a voter based on your registration status. I wanted to tee this topic up for conversation today because it’s not the only somewhat similar note I’ve received. I’ve had a handful of similar concerns and questions roll in since the onset of early voting last week. It’s clear there’s some confusion with what are likely new August primary voters in Florida.
Anytime the need for hurricane coverage comes around (which hopefully won’t this year) I remind myself of how many new South Floridians we’ve had since we experienced the impact of a hurricane (which is considerable given hurricane Irma, five years ago, is the most recent to have brought hurricane conditions to Southeast Florida. It's been since Wilma in 2005’ that we’ve experienced a landfall. Voting is a different version of a similar thing – that is with the threat of damage and destruction that can comes in the form of poor for decisions – as opposed to a natural disaster... There are approximately 547,000 net new Floridians since the August primaries two years ago. Not all of those people are registered voters and fewer still who are will vote in these primary elections, however that’s a lot of opportunity for potential voter confusion. Additionally, with historically light turnout in the August primaries (only 27% four years ago), there’s the potential that many voters who typically vote in the November general elections might be engaging for the first time in the August primaries. So, about these elections for those who’ve never participated.
Florida’s closed primary system means one must be registered to a political party in order to vote in a partisan primary in the August elections. Those not registered to a political party may only vote for non-partisan elections. For the purpose of these August primaries, that means school board races, judges and any ballot issues pertaining to one’s jurisdiction. That means there are multiple types of ballots based upon one’s party registration for this cycle (that’s another concern that I’ve had voiced, that a friend/neighbor’s ballot is different than theirs). A record 30%+ of Floridia’s registered voters are registered as an NPA voter or minor party affiliated voter. That means a record number and percentage of Floridians ballots don’t have partisan races on them for next Tuesday’s Primary Election Day.
My advice for voters of all registration affiliations is to review a sample ballot prior to going to vote to ensure you understand what’s on your ballot, and to see you’re taking the time to do due diligence in reviewing which candidates you’d like to vote for. One is mailed to you in advance of elections and additionally they’re available online with the state or your county election’s supervisor. Incumbents have long benefited from those who aren’t familiar with candidates from specific races. In Florida’s non-partisan races, the historical reelect rate for incumbents is a remarkable 95%. Research has shown that voters who aren’t familiar with candidates in a race will typically vote for the candidate they’re most likely to recognize. That naturally lends itself to incumbents having the highest name recognition and thus the opportunity to benefit from the general lack of awareness. This phenomenon has also resulted in fewer challenges to incumbents in many non-partisan races – which can also lead to worse governance over time.
Hopefully that’s helpful for the many who are new to Florida’s August primary process. I’m hopeful these types of inquires are indicative of higher turnout than we typically see for these uber-important elections which often fly under the radar.
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