Opinion: Party Primaries Result in Taxation without Representation

I am the Central Florida spokesperson for Florida Independent Voting (fivorg.com). I have been elected to public office as a partisan candidate (state legislature) and also as a nonpartisan candidate (school board).

All taxpayers, regardless of their party affiliation or no party affiliation voters, pay for major party primary elections under our current closed primary system. Over 2.9 million Florida voters are left out of the important choices made in primaries. I am one of the growing number of no-party-affiliation voters — 22 percent of Florida voters — who are frozen out of Democratic or Republican party primary elections.

That’s not right.

Or, in the alternative, political parties should pay for their primaries, which are essentially private events paid for by taxpayers of every political persuasion.

A simple solution would be to enact the “Top-Two Open Primary” system wherein all candidates for Florida executive and cabinet offices, the Florida Legislature, and U.S. congressional seats appear together on one ballot and all voters get to decide which two candidates move on to the general election. Candidates could identify with a party or no party, and political parties could continue to support candidates of their choosing. Imagine the benefit of all candidates having to appeal to all voters — not just their party base. This would be a tremendous benefit to the electorate.

FIVorg.com is a grassroots effort to bring “Top-Two” voting to closed-primary Florida via constitutional amendment. It’s about democracy and fairness, ideals that this nation has always championed. The closed primary system is taxation without representation — a primary (pun intended) reason we fought for independence from England.

The Independent Voter Project says 90 percent of elections are decided in the primary where few voters participate. Average voter turnout in Florida primaries from 2000 through 2012 was 23 percent. In primaries, candidates appeal to their base in order to avoid being “primaried out” by the radical fringe. As an aide to 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney campaign asserted, they then “Etch A Sketch” their views for the voters in the general election.

The major parties have systematically squashed competition by gerrymandering congressional districts so that only 35 of 435 congressional districts are competitive, according to Nate Silver, former New York Times writer. Further, Silver points out that the major motivator for an incumbent is to win the next election and to do so means not compromising on anything. Thus, party candidates need only appeal to their base, and more and more this means the extremes in both major parties win.

The “Top-Two” plan would attract candidates who appeal to a broader collection of voters — not the fringe. Most voters are independent-minded and generally “moderate.”

I am focused on a fair and democratic voting process. I am not vested in stacked or predetermined outcomes. I simply want the best candidates and those the voters prefer to prevail.

The “Top-Two Open Primary” elections would return power to the people.

In Lake County, according to Supervisor of Elections Emogene Stegall’s office, there were 201,616 total voters as of March. 3, 2014. Of those, 66,781 (33%) are Democrats; 88,330 (44%) are Republicans; 36,825 (18%) have no party affiliation and 9,680 (5%) are aligned with minor parties. Stegall’s office spent $460,520 on the 2012 closed primary. No-party-affiliation and minor party voters are 23 percent of Lake County voters, so people who couldn’t vote in the primary chipped in over $105,000 in taxes for that election.

This is as much a civil rights issue as the Jim Crow laws and poll taxes and literacy tests of a bygone era. We need a new voting rights act that includes all voters.

Wouldn’t you like to vote for the candidate of your choice without being coerced to join a party? Let’s stop this taxation without representation and let ALL voters decide.

Editor’s Note: This article was written by Choice Edwards and originally published on the Orlando Sentinel on March 3, 2014. Edwards served in the Indiana General Assembly and on a township school board in the Hoosier State. He currently lives in Clermont, Florida.

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