With three letters, NPA, on his voter registration card, Steve Hough has only one way to have a say during Florida’s primary elections: Claim he’s a Republican or Democrat. “I’ve always been an independent,” said Hough, a Panama City resident. “I can always go down to the Supervisor of Elections Office and check a box 29 days prior (to a primary), then after voting change it back. I don’t see the reason why we have to do this.” More than 3 million Floridians did not participate in the primary elections of 2016 because they are part of the growing number of “no-party affiliation voters,” those who choose not to be associated with either of the two major parties. Where many states have opened up primary elections to voters like Hough, Florida’s remains closed. An effort to change that passed a critical test last week and faces another Thursday.
The Florida Constitution Revision Commission, a body of 37 appointees that meets once every 20 years to sift through proposed changes to the state’s guiding document, has committees sorting through hundreds of proposals.
One, Proposal 62, would ask voters in November whether they would like primaries to remain closed to those registered either as Republicans or Democrats, or to open the process in a way similar to how California and the state of Washington handle primaries: All candidates appear on a primary ballot that goes before all voters, with the top two finishers — regardless of party — ending up in the general election.
Proposed by Commissioner William Schifino, a Republican from Tampa, the “top-two open primary” concept passed the Ethics and Elections Committee last week by a 6-3 margin, giving hope to backers like Hough that the concept might actually fly. But it faces another vote Thursday before the General Provisions Committee before going to the full commission later this year.