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Initiative Launched to Open Primaries to 3.5 Million Disenfranchised Floridians

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Created: 07 March, 2019
Updated: 14 August, 2022
3 min read

All Voters Vote (AVV) launched an initiative to allow all voters access to taxpayer-funded primary elections in Florida. State law currently bars approximately 3.5 million registered voters from participating in what is often the most crucial stage of the election process because they refuse to register with a party.

The group is submitting two petitions for review:

BALLOT TITLE: All Voters Vote in Primary Elections for United States Senate and House of Representatives
BALLOT SUMMARY: Allows all registered voters to vote in primaries for U.S. Senate and House of Representatives regardless of political party affiliation. All candidates for an office, including party nominated candidates, appear on the same primary ballot. Two highest vote getters advance to general election. If only two candidates qualify, no primary is held and winner is determined in general election. Candidate’s party affiliation may appear on ballot as provided by law. Effective January 1, 2024.
BALLOT TITLE: All Voters Vote in Primary Elections for State Legislature, Governor, and Cabinet
BALLOT SUMMARY: Allows all registered voters to vote in primaries for state legislature, governor, and cabinet regardless of political party affiliation. All candidates for an office, including party nominated candidates, appear on the same primary ballot. Two highest vote getters advance to general election. If only two candidates qualify, no primary is held and winner is determined in general election. Candidate’s party affiliation may appear on ballot as provided by law. Effective January 1, 2024.
AVV is proposing nonpartisan primaries similar to the primary elections in place in California and Washington state. All candidates and voters, regardless of party, participate on a single ballot, and the top two vote-getters advance to the general election.

The campaign is being spearheaded by health care executive Mike Fernandez, prominent businessman Carlos M. de la Cruz, Sr. and attorney Eugene Stearns.

“Florida’s current system of excluding the vast majority of voters from participating in most important elections is just wrong. The All Voters Vote initiative will change how we conduct elections ensuring that everyone who is properly registered can cast a ballot in elections that matter,” said Stearns.

“The many voters like me who have refused to associate themselves with one party or the other must be given the same right to participate in elections as those who chose a party affiliation and the State will be far better for listening to those voters," remarked de la Cruz.

This is not the organization's first attempt to get nonpartisan primaries on the ballot and approved by voters. AVV campaigned for a similar amendment in 2015, but failed to get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

This campaign also follows efforts by Open Primaries and Florida Fair and Open Primaries to get the Florida Constitution Revision Commission to put a nonpartisan primary amendment on the ballot. Though the organizations mobilized thousands of voters to demand the reform from the CRC, the commission rejected the proposal.

AVV needs to obtain 76,620 petition to get the state Supreme Court to review the proposed ballot measures. Once reviewed, the organization must get 766,200 signatures to place the initiatives on the ballot, and at least 60% of Florida voters must vote yes for the measure to pass.

The state doesn't make it easy for reformers to get ballot initiatives through the process. However, if successful, nonpartisan open primaries would be used in a major battleground state in 2024.

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Photo Credit: Ingo70 / shutterstock.com

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