Real election reform in Florida requires changes to our primaries – Seven reform ideas

Florida Democrats are correct – the sweeping “reform” suggestions of the GOP to stamp out the imaginary “voter fraud” that allegedly (according to Newsmax and OANN) swept the 2020 elections are completely unnecessary and unwarranted. Though it must be stated the GOP may actually be overreaching and ultimately hurting themselves with these “reforms” should they pass. Historically Republicans have voted by mail more often in Florida than their Democratic counterparts and my own experience this past cycle showed that among spoiled ballots, the numbers were fairly even between the parties.

By Tom Arthur from Orange, CA, United States – vote for better tape, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5131677

The types of changes to our electoral system that are really needed is real structural reform to the way we select elected representatives. On that the Democrats have been as obstinate as the GOP in allowing for reforms.

This past cycle, a ballot initiative to create a jungle primary failed. I don’t love the idea but voted for it, because ANY change to the way we run primaries and even the date of the current primary is preferable to what we have. More Floridians are effectively disenfranchised by a (mostly) closed-party August primaries than by any other means – we have elected representatives in the State House who effectively won their seats with maybe 5% of the eligible electorate casting ballots for them. Let me explain.

Right now we have a system where primaries can be closed by a mere write-in candidate in safe seats for either party, which are quite frankly the majority of seats in the State House and State Senate (I do give the Democrats some real credit for fielding candidates in unwinnable seats of late on the Senate side, which has allowed voters to express their choices BUT would reinforce these voters have little real power in terms of selecting the GOP nominee and being the Republican nominee in these seats is roughly equivalent to being elected).

We’ve abolished runoffs so say five candidates run in a partisan primary that is held in August, that candidate can win with 25% of the vote in an already low-turnout closed primary. This is also allows special interest groups, whether they be any number of corporate interests or big sugar for example to effectively buy the primary. It leads directly to the extreme polarization we have today and lawmakers that are excessively partisan and out-of-touch with the vast majority of the citizenry. It might be good for parties but is bad for Florida’s citizens.

Several reforms could be undertaken. Here is a sampling of a few:

  • Keep the current primary system but move the primary back to May which will increase participation.
  • Re-institute the runoffs so if you keep August primaries we can have a September runoff which forces a candidate to win 50% + 1 of the vote.
  • Bring back multi-member districts which force an elected representative to have broader perspectives (I realize this is a non-starter with most Democrats of this era even though the previous incarnation of this system in Florida strongly favored the Democrats)
  • Have primaries that allow NPA voters to choose a party primary to vote in, but prevent members of the other major party from voting in it.
  • Ranked choice voting
  • Truly open primaries
  • Try again for a jungle primary but explain it better this time. For what it’s worth Democrats haven’t fared as badly in this system as you’d think in Louisiana of late.

I am with the Democrats wholeheartedly on passing HR 1 in the Congress and in fighting back GOP efforts to limit ballot access in Florida. However, I do find the party very hypocritical in that they state they want greater participation rates and more accessible elections yet have fought any attempt to actually enfranchise voters during primaries that would allow us to have a legislature and Congressional delegation more representative of the state’s citizenry.

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