Independent Organization Pushes for Nonpartisan Top-Two Primary In FL

On the subject of election reform in Florida, much attention has focused on the efforts made by the state Senate to improve the electoral system and remedy the many failures of the 2012 elections. Lesser known, however, is an initiative proposed by the grassroots organization, FloridaIndependentVoting.org (FIV), to adopt a constitutional amendment that would create a nonpartisan top-two primary in Florida.

Florida currently uses a closed primary system, meaning that only voters affiliated with a particular party may vote in its primary. However, considering that Florida has 2.5 million non-affiliated voters, opponents of the current system argue it disenfranchises a large portion of the population.

FIV believes the adoption of a nonpartisan top-two primary system is the solution to this problem. The group argues it would give all voters, regardless of party affiliation, the right to participate in the primary elections. This system is currently being used in Louisiana, Washington state, and California.

In order to change the election system in Florida, FIV is attempting to put a constitutional amendment on the 2014 ballot that, if passed, will replace the current system with a top-two open primary. The proposed amendement is written as follow:

“Florida Primary Elections are Top Two Open Primary Elections. All candidates are to appear on the same ballot along with their party affiliation, if any. All qualified electors, regardless of party affiliation, if any, may vote in the Primary Elections.”

Co-founder of Florida Independent Voting.org and author of the amendment, Duane E. Pike, said he used simple, straight forward terms for the amendment to reduce the risk of legal challenges in the future. The two successful adoptions of a nonpartisan top-two primary in California and Washington have faced many challenges in court.

To place the amendment on the ballot, proponents need to collect 8 percent of the total vote in the last presidential election by February 1, 2014. If the amendment makes it on the ballot, it will also need to win a supermajority (60 percent) of the vote to be adopted.

In the face of these challenges, FIV is taking it a step at a time. According to the group, they have already opened 5-6 signature collection centers around different regions of state where volunteers can accumulate the required signatures. FIV will now pursue two main goals: publicizing the initiative and combine efforts with other organizations.

For a small grassroots organization with limited resources like FIV, Duane Pike said it is important to publicize their initiative as much as they can. The group has reached out to newspapers, talk shows, and TV stations across the sunshine state to discuss and explain how a nonpartisan top-two primary could change Florida’s political landscape.

FIV also partnered with Moveon.org and Signon.org to use the help of their large online community to make the nonpartisan top-two primary a successful campaign.

The group has not, so far, received the support of any third parties such as the Independent Party of Florida or the Green Party. These parties, whose Californian equivalents opposed the nonpartisan top-two primary, have expressed their support for an alternative system: ranked-choice voting (also known as instant runoff voting).

While advocates of the nonpartisan top-two open primary have an uphill challenge ahead of them, the Internet and the use of social media in recent years have made initiatives deemed impossible, a reality.

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