At the 2015 State Convention of the League of Women Voters delegates decided to do a comprehensive study on the issue of whether or not Florida’s closed primary election system was a hindrance to voter turnout. Voter turnout in the 2014 primary election was 17.6% of registered voters. Nationally, voter turnout for primary elections is 37%.
The study was authorized to evaluate reasons for and solutions to the issue of turnout. In doing this, we reviewed all the election systems throughout the country. Florida is one of only 9 states in the U.S. that has closed primaries. This creates a problem of confusion in a state where most of our residents (64%) were not born in Florida.
Our current system prevents 3.4 million registered voters from being included in the voting because they have no party affiliation or are a member of a minority party.
Let us not forget, that all taxpayers fund our primary elections, and yet we exclude duly registered voters because, for whatever reason, they have decided not to join a political party. The study included a review of all the different types of primaries in all 50 states, including those states that hold caucuses (which are the least democratic and have the lowest percentage of voters participating).
We looked at different types of primaries, and although the Top Two was not our favorite, the majority of League members agreed to support a type of Open Primary system that would increase the participation of registered voters.
The Citizen Initiative does that. It is not perfect, but then perfect can also be the enemy of the good. Over 40% of Millennials have no party affiliation. Why should they not get the chance to vote in Primaries? What about members of the minor parties? Should we be forcing them to join one of the two major parties?
The League of Women Voters has a tradition of being non-partisan and never supporting candidates. We find it ironic that this one issue has brought the Republicans and Democrats together on an issue, when nothing else could. The League stands up for voters and their interests, not for the interests of the parties.