Who Are No Party Affiliated (NPA) Voters in Florida?

In a recent Florida League of Women Voters Florida On-Line conference call, Dr Susan MacManus (USF Department of Government) characterized Florida NPA voters for the listening audience.  She is one of the leading political science experts in the state of Florida.

According to Dr MacManus, the bottom line is that NPAs are very diverse in their views and hard to characterize regarding their voting preferences from election to election.  Dr MacManus went on to say that when a majority of NPAs vote for a specific candidate that candidate tends to win an election.

Who are these NPAs?  According to Dr MacManus – – –

  •  Over 25% of registered voters in Florida are NPAs or minor party members
  • Over 33% of these voters show up at the polls on election day
  • Over 60% are under age 50
  • Over 25% of voters under 30 register as NPAs
  • Over 50% of these voters are in the age group 30 – 49
  • Young NPAs are turned off by major parties because of negative campaigns

During the question and answer period Dr MacManus was asked about open primary elections in Florida.  She mentioned “universal” primaries as being a feature of Florida elections that exist and are misunderstood by the voters.  Article VI, Section 5(b) of the  Florida Constitution, addresses the issue of what is now being referred to as a “universal primary.” This provision reads:  “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.”

As you might expect the parties hate this provision of the Constitution because it might mean that all voters would be allowed to vote for a candidate that might not be of the party’s choosing.  Of course, if a write-in candidate qualifies for the general election, the primary reverts to a closed primary thus maintaining party control.  This “trick” was recently used in a Sarasota Supervisor of Elections race where the potential winner of a Republican primary was going to face no opposition in the general election.  Sure enough, a write in candidate (same party) qualified for the general election and all voters not registered as Republicans were shut out of the voting.

Dr MacManus went on to say that a Top 2 Open Primary like those in California and Washington State would be a better choice to eliminate the political trickery BUT a Top 2 primary would face fierce opposition from the Republican and Democratic parties.

What Dr MacManus has highlighted in her remarks is the overwhelming need to take control of primary elections from parties and place the control in the hands of voters.  Top 2 Open Primaries do just that!  Remember that primary elections were initiated in the early 1900’s to give the people the opportunity to participate in choosing candidates for office, not the party bosses in a smoke filled back room.  What we have now is a primary system where a small group of very vocal, party members skewed to the hard right or hard left determine who NPAs have to choose from in the general election.  No wonder voter turnout is so poor in the United States!

For more on NPAs please read the great article by Sascha Cordner.  She serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program, All Things Considered at WFSU-FM.