OPINION: Stand With Us for Open Primaries

Oftentimes as citizens we say things like “someone should really do something about X, Y, or Z,” or we wonder how some big achievement in history happened, almost as if it happened by magic.

But change does not happen magically. It happens when someone (or lots of people) take the initiative to “be the change they want to see in the world” and stand up. In most cases, it is just regular citizens caring enough to not take ‘no’ for an answer.

Take Katie Fahey, for example. Katie is a 28-year-old Michigan resident who grew more and more alarmed at partisan gerrymandering. She posted her concerns on Facebook. From there grew a massive citizen’s movement that collected 425,000 signatures for a ballot initiative in her home state. This past election, it passed. Change is possible.

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Here in Florida, citizens from all political walks of life are saying enough is enough to “lesser-of-two-evils” politics and becoming independent. The national figure is now somewhere between 40-45%, and the Florida figure registered without a party affiliation is around 30%, or 3.5 million voters.

The independent movement in Florida has spawned two citizens groups, Florida Fair and Open Primaries (FFAOP) and Unite America. We have similar goals  to make sure that independent voters are fully heard, fairly enfranchised, and properly represented in the halls of government by pragmatic, solution-oriented, problem solvers.

As leaders of these two growing organizations, we have dedicated ourselves to making change happen for the people of Florida.

FFAOP, led by Steve Hough of Panama City, is working to bring open primaries to Florida.  FFAOP testified before the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) hearings and organized pressure to persuade them to put open primaries on the ballot for 2018. Despite the fact that open primaries proposal was the second-most discussed proposal, the CRC failed to advance it.  FFAOP is now running a campaign for a 2020 ballot initiative and taking it to the streets.  They have already collected over 8,000 signatures.

Unite America, led by its Northeast Florida chapter leader Perry Wag, has recently joined them. As Unite America gets other chapters started around the state in the coming months, most notably in Tampa, Gainesville, and Miami, those chapters will be helping as well.

For Unite America, the decision to support open primaries was a simple one. Our highest priority must be to fix the negative, divisive political mess we see in our state and country. For us, open primaries is about rediscovering what we have in common and empowering every voter.

We’re just two average citizens who are standing up for change in Florida; things like opening up primaries, instituting ranked choice voting, ending gerrymandering, and taking money out of politics.

We believe independent voters are the future of the state of Florida — a future where all voters can vote and don’t have to join a party in order to have a say in who will represent them.  And a future where that key principle of our founding – no taxation without representation – means taxpayers stop having to pay for private party elections that exclude millions of voters.

Independent voters often decide which candidate wins in November. Isn’t it time they get to choose the candidates in the first place? Florida’s growing citizens movement is working to make that happen. Whether you’re a Republican, Democrat or independent, we hope you’ll join us.

Steve Hough is a retired accountant, a lifelong independent, and Chairman of Florida Fair and Open Primaries. Perry Waag is the author of “The Centrist Path Ahead.” He has been registered as No Party Affiliation since 2003, and is the Northeast Florida Chapter Leader of Unite America.