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Top-Two Open Primaries for State Offices Initiative

Summary

Allows all registered voters to vote in primaries for state legislature, governor, and cabinet regardless of political party affiliation. All candidates for an office, including party nominated candidates, appear on the same primary ballot. Two highest vote getters advance to general election. If only two candidates qualify, no primary is held and winner is determined in general election. Candidate’s party affiliation may appear on ballot as provided by law. 

 

The measure would add a section C to Section 5 of Article VI of the Florida Constitution, as appears below:

ARTICLE VI, SECTION 5. Primary, general, and special elections.—

(a) A general election shall be held in each county on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November of each even-numbered year to choose a successor to each elective state and county officer whose term will expire before the next general election and, except as provided herein, to fill each vacancy in elective office for the unexpired portion of the term. A general election may be suspended or delayed due to a state of emergency or impending emergency pursuant to general law. Special elections and referenda shall be held as provided by law.

(b) If all candidates for an office have the same party affiliation and the winner will have no opposition in the general election, all qualified electors, regardless of party affiliation, may vote in the primary elections for that office.

(c) All elections for the Florida legislature, governor and cabinet shall be held as follows:

(1) A single primary election shall be held for each office. All electors registered to vote for the office being filled shall be allowed to vote in the primary election for said office regardless of the voter’s, or any candidate’s, political party affiliation or lack of same.

(2) All candidates qualifying for election to the office shall be placed on the same ballot for the primary election regardless of any candidate’s political party affiliation or lack of same.

 

LPF Stance: No

Description

If approved, this would eliminate closed-party nominations for state offices and replace them with the “top-two” system, allowing all voters to vote in primary elections, regardless of party affiliation. Candidates of each party are listed on the same ballot for all voters. Candidates obtaining the top two popular vote positions advance to general election regardless of their party affiliation. Thus two Republicans or two Democrats might face each other in the General Election, blocking third-party participation.

 

Libertarian Party of Florida Platform

II. Elections

  1. Election Ballot Choices
    We support innovative voting methods that increase efficiency and voter turnout, and save taxpayer money, such as a “none of the above” choice (with a new election without the losing candidates if it wins) and rank choice voting; and we should consider proportional representation. We oppose “Top Two” primaries since these keep minority parties from being represented in the general election.

 

Discussion

Florida is a closed-primary state. This means voters of each party identify the candidate that best represents their party to support and advance that candidate to the General Election.

Currently, voters choose to affiliate with a party or may choose No Party Affiliation (NPA) on their voter registration form. The electorate may vote for only candidates registered in the voter’s same party during a Primary Election. All voters, regardless of affiliation, may vote on non-partisan candidates and issues during a Primary Election or in a universal primary contest.

In a top-two system, sometimes aptly known as a “jungle primary,” the two candidates with the most votes in the open primary advance to the General Election. During the General Election, only two candidates will be listed on the ballot.

According to Richard Winger, ballot-access expert, California, Louisiana, and Washington have top-two systems. As of August 3, 2015, Winger states there were 119 instances when a member of a third party ran for federal or state office in those states along with democrats and Republicans in the same race. In all 119 instances, the minor party candidate did not place first or second and thus, was eliminated from the general election.

Turnout in California declined more than any other state between 2010, when voters approved the top-two system, and 2014. In the 2010 California Primary, there were six parties represented on the ballot. In 2014, there was only one Democrat and one Republican on the General Election ballot for each statewide race. As a result, in these three states, voters who didn’t want to vote for a Republican or a Democrat often couldn’t vote at all.

The LPF recommends voting No. These primaries often lead to the exclusion of minority party candidates participating in the General Election, leading to single party rule.

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