First the good news: Tens of thousands of voters in Florida are rushing to register as Democrats or Republicans to have their voices heard in the upcoming presidential primary. But these voters don’t identify with the two major parties, and forcing them to pick sides only reinforces an antiquated and disenfranchising elections system. Florida needs to adopt an open primary to fully and fairly bring these voters into the political process. As the Tampa Bay Times’ Steve Bousquet reported Wednesday, nonpartisan voters scrambled to meet Tuesday’s registration deadline to vote in the state’s presidential primary March 15. Florida is the largest of 13 states that still have closed primaries, meaning that only Democrats and Republicans can vote in those parties’ nomination races.
Tampa Bay area voters who changed their registration told the Times they wanted a voice in the hotly contested and highly unpredictable presidential race this year. In Pinellas County since Jan. 1, 1,435 voters changed from no party affiliation, or NPA, to Democrat and 1,263 changed from NPA to Republican. In Hillsborough, 895 voters switched from NPA to Democrat, while 662 NPA voters became Republican.
The switches come as more people identify as independents — and then realize that shunning party labels keeps them largely frozen out of the electoral process. Statewide, no-party affiliation voters had increased to 2.9 million, or 24 percent of the 12 million registered, by the end of January. Compared to the last election cycle in 2014, no-party voters make up 1 percent more of the electorate, the only group to post a bigger share.
Full Article: Editorial: Florida needs open primary | Tampa Bay Times.