BRADENTON – Florida voters are increasingly registering without party affiliation, according to registration records with the Florida Division of Elections. As of June, 2013, 2,592,891 registered voters in the state are NPA, up 20,000 since October of 2012. During that same period, both major parties have seen their registered voter numbers fall.
In a recent interview with the Florida League of Women Voters, noted University of South Florida Political Scientist Dr. Susan MacManus underscored the sometimes underestimated impact of independent voters in the state. According to Dr. MacManus, 33 percent of these voters turn out on election day and when a majority of NPA's vote for a candidate, they tend to win the election.
While NPA's are sizable in nearly every demographic, it is particularly common among younger voters with 60 percent being under the age of 50 and 25 percent being under the age of 30. While Florida does have limited open primaries when only one party has a candidate on the ballot (making the primary the defacto election), they are often manipulated by using write-in candidates (who do not have to meet the same rigorous qualifying standards as those with their name on the ballot) to close off what would otherwise be an open race.
Groups like Independent Florida are fighting for open primaries in which all registered voters can participate in all primary elections in their voting districts. The group argues that the rules of the political system have created structural discrimination against independents and have called on Congress to hold hearings to examine ways in which partisanship can be reduced.
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