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Top 2 or Not Top 2?

by Florida Independent Voting.Org, published

Florida Independent Voting.Org’s (FIV) BLOG on Florida legislation benefited greatly from the civil, thoughtful and well-reasoned comments and responses to each other.  It’s a joy to read comments from people with a brain that can express themselves with logic rather than anger and rote ideologies.  Thanks very much!  When the FIV movement began, we all had reservations and ideas to “make it better”.  The following comments are offered as additional food for thought.  Let’s keep the dialogue going!

Grassroots CampaignsA true grassroots campaign, according to what I’m told, is almost always short on money and probably name recognition as well.  A grassroots candidate can make up for not being a major party candidate by efficient use of time and hard work of a volunteer base.  The grassroots candidate needs the time before AND after a primary to become known and viable in the general election.  Typically a primary is followed by the general election in two-three months.  Florida has its primary in August giving the underdog candidate less than three months to make his/her case.  If the candidate only surfaces between primary and general elections, the advantage goes to the well-financed better-known candidate.

Survival: Michael Higham raises two very helpful points.  First, Top 2 isn’t about independent candidates.  It is about finding the best candidate regardless of party affiliation or no party affiliation.  One premise of Top 2 is that all candidates will need to appeal to a much broader base and, therefore, not represent the usual extremes of one party or another.  Second, surviving a Top 2 primary makes the underdog more competitive in a one-on-one race.  One of the strategies in Texas No Limit Poker is to eliminate the competition early in a hand and only have to deal with one opponent.  Not a bad strategy for a candidate for office?

Money! Money! Money!  We need campaign finance reform, period! The IRS did a very dumb thing in targeting conservative 501c4 organizations but the underlying motive may have been pure.  A 501c4 can’t devote more than half its time in political activism and be legal.  It does matter whether what the IRS did was legal or not despite the incredibly dumb comment by Dan Pfeiffer, President Obama’s spin doctor.  What matter much, much more is having the guts to change the system from inside!  The Catch 22 we face is that the current US Congressional and Florida Legislative incumbents will never allow meaningful campaign finance reform.  We need to elect individuals that aren’t owned by corporations or wealthy individuals.

Build The Government Voters Deserve: A group named Represent Us is pursuing legislation titled “The American Anti-Corruption Act”.  Trevor Potter (Former FEC Commissioner and Steven Colbert Super PAC lawyer) is one of the authors of the legislation.  A group named Move To Amend is pursuing a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.  Top 2 is a building block to complement these movements.  We need to build a better government brick-by-brick.

More Candidates:  Regarding Top 3 or 4, FIV simply wanted to stay within the construct of Washington and California Top 2 laws to hopefully reduce or eliminate future court challenges.  Some would argue for instant runoff as well.  If one assumes a close race to be <6% difference between the second and third place candidates in a Primary Election, Washington State only had 7% of the total 400 races (US Congressional and State/Senate/Representatives) spanning 2008 – 2012 that were close.

Kevin, your point about voter turnout is certainly valid regarding Top 2 and candidate selection.  FIV believes Top 2 requires a culture change which means time must pass.  We are working on a set of metrics based on Washington States Top 2 election history from 2008 through 2012.  The bottom line to voter apathy is grassroots organizing and large doses of perseverance.  One of the often cited reasons for not voting in a primary is that there is no real differentiation between candidates.  We are early in the life of Top 2.  We need to give it some time.  Higher quality candidates can boost turnout.   See below for a peak at Florida compared to California and Washington State turnout.  Turnout is a problem that we collectively need to address.

The BLOG comments provided by IVN members highlight the difficulties of finding that perfect solution to election system reform.  FIV encourages every Floridian to spread the word and seek support for a constitutional amendment to make our election system something to be proud of.


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