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Guest Op/Ed: Florida Needs Election Reform


I’m an independent voter. There are over 2.8 million voters like me in Florida. We can’t vote in Florida primary elections unless we join a major party. Florida and 18 other states have closed primary elections where only members of a political party may vote. Even “open” primaries require you to choose a party ballot. National polls show that 40 percent of the electorate self identifies as independent or no party affiliation.

Washington State and California have adopted the Top 2 Open Primary. Top 2 is voter focused not party focused. All candidates appear on a single ballot and all registered voters are allowed to participate and choose candidates regardless of party affiliation or no party affiliation. The Top 2 vote-getters in each race then compete in the general election. We have a playoff system in sports where teams compete to play in the championship game. In Indiana, the smallest high schools compete with the biggest high schools to play in the basketball championship game. Why not in politics?

Why change our election system to Top 2? First, those 2.8 Million independent voters would have a voice in Florida primary elections. Top 2 would apply to congressional, state, and local races. Second, all voters, including those registered with major or minor parties, can choose the best candidate regardless of political party or no party affiliation. Let fresh ideas determine results, not party affiliation or extreme ideologies. Third, candidates would have to listen to views of all voters, not just their party base. Fourth, Top 2 will encourage potential candidates to run for office based on their principles and positions not those dictated by party affiliation. Fifth, Top 2 preserves party rights to hold caucuses, conventions or even primaries (party financed and run). Sixth, Top 2 can eliminate game playing like crossover voting that can happen in other primary types.           

In March 2008 the US Supreme Court, in a 7–2 decision, declared the Washington State Top 2 Open Primary constitutional overturning a prior 9th Circuit Court decision. Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority said, “Overturning Washington's Top 2 plan would have been an extraordinary and precipitous nullification of the will of the people."

Critics contend that parties will lose influence in elections. Data from Washington State elections suggest otherwise. Over 80 percent of general elections featured races between Republicans and Democrats or unopposed Republicans or Democrats. Critics suggest that races could become single party races. Data from Washington State show that less than 9 percent of Top 2 races were single party competitions. Critics suggest that General Elections will feature fewer choices. The point of Top 2 is to increase choice by allowing all voters access to all candidates on a single primary ballot. With only 2 candidates in a general election, the voters are ensured that the winner is favored by a majority of voters. 

There is no question that running for office is tough. Top 2 Open Primaries won’t solve all election problems BUT Top 2 gives all voters equal access to all candidates. It’s time to think outside the box. Florida Independent Voting [fivorg.com] is leading a state-wide effort to place a Top 2 Open Primary constitutional amendment on the 2014 ballot. If you agree, click here to download and sign our petition and mail it today.

Ray Hudkins
Florida Independent Voting


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