Miami, FL – November 9, 2017 – A broad and diverse coalition, led by Florida-based reform groups Progress for All and Florida Fair and Open Primaries hailed Constitutional Revision Commission (CRC) member Bill Schifino’s newly introduced proposal to open Florida’s primaries to the 3.4 million independent voters who are currently barred from voting in the state’s primary elections.
The coalition is now calling on the entire commission to embrace Mr. Schifino’s proposal and give Floridians the chance to vote for open primaries in 2018.
Open primaries was one of the most popular topics brought before the CRC at nine public hearings held across the state earlier this year.
Dozens of Floridians showed up and spoke in favor of changing the current rules, which exclude independents and limit the choices of Democrats and Republicans.
Hundreds more submitted written statements of support and individual commissioners have received thousands of emails and postcards, along with a 9,000 signature petition, supporting open primaries.
In addition to public testimony, Supervisors of Elections from Broward, Polk, and Escambia counties gave presentations before the Ethics and Elections Committee. They agreed on two things:
1) The growth of voter registrations with no party affiliation (NPAs) has exploded in Florida; and
2) The closed primary system is causing growing voter anger and confusion.
70% of Floridians - including supermajorities of Republican, Democrat, and independent voters - now support open primaries in Florida according to a recent poll.
Steve Hough of Southport, director of Florida Fair and Open Primaries, was gratified by the decision of Commissioner Schifino to introduce an open primaries proposal:
“This is unprecedented. There has been a growing sense among voters in Florida and across the country that no one is really listening. Well the voters of Florida stood up and made the political establishment listen. Now we’re going to hold the entire Constitution Revision Commission accountable to putting an open primaries referendum on the 2018 ballot. Let the voters decide!”
Tim Canova of Hollywood, the chair of Progress for All, added:
"We need open primaries at every level of government, including state and local elections to ensure all voters have a voice in primary elections. Florida public opinion surveys show overwhelming support for open primaries.
That's why for over a year we have worked with national and local allies to run a statewide grassroots campaign that includes thousands of Floridians testifying before the Florida Constitution Revision Commission (CRC), signing petitions and engaging in other voter education efforts to push for a 2018 statewide referendum.
Citizens across the state of Florida repeatedly expressed their aspirations for a stronger democracy and their voices were finally heard. We applaud CRC Commissioner Schifino for submitting an open primaries proposal for consideration by the full body of the CRC. Now we call on the CRC to listen to the people of Florida and place an open primary referendum on the state ballot in 2018."
John Opdycke, president of the national organization Open Primaries, said:
“The voters of Florida support open primaries by a very large margin. But politicians tend to ignore voters when it comes to making democracy more open, fair, and responsive to the people. It’s a tribute to Commissioner Schifino that he listened. Tim, Steve, and the entire movement in Florida are committed to making sure that the entire commission listens as well.”
The commission will decide in early 2018 which constitutional changes to place before the voters. All changes recommended by the CRC require a 60% approval from the voters to become incorporated into the constitution.