Florida GOP, Democrats unite against open primary proposal

VIDEO: Florida GOP, Democrats unite against open primary proposal

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida’s Democratic and Republican parties joined Tuesday in asking the state Supreme Court to keep a proposal for open primaries off next year’s ballot.

Lawyers for both parties argued that the language summarizing the proposed constitutional amendment is confusing and misleading.

“The chief purpose of this amendment is to abolish party primaries in order to set up a mechanism to elect more moderate candidates,” said Robert McNeely, a lawyer for the Florida Democratic Party.

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A group called All Voters Vote gathered enough signatures to have the item placed on next November’s ballot, but the court must decide whether that ballot language is clear. Attorney General Ashley Moody is also asking that the proposal be kept off the ballot.

If the proposal is allowed on the ballot and passes with at least 60 percent support, all voters will be eligible to vote in primary elections for the Legislature, governor and Cabinet. The top two candidates would then move on to the general election.

“If nothing else, at least All Voters Vote has united the Republicans and the Democrats in common cause. Perhaps there’s some hope for the republic after all,” said Glenn Burhans, a lawyer for the group. “Unfortunately, the common cause they’re united in is to perpetuate a primary system that disenfranchises nearly 3.7 million registered Florida voters merely because they haven’t joined a political party.

Florida has more than 4.7 million registered Republicans and nearly 5 million Democrats. Nearly 3.8 million registered voters have no party affiliation or are registered with minor parties.

Parties would still be able to select nominees, but members of the same party could qualify for the primary ballot even if they aren’t the nominee.