ACT NOW: End Voter Lock-Out With “Open” Primaries

Tim Canova
Chair, Progress For All

The 2016 presidential primaries revealed how closed primaries are being used by both parties to suppress the vote throughout the country. Taxpayers, not the parties, are paying the costs for closed primaries in which only Democrats and Republicans can vote, thereby locking out millions of voters from the most important decision in electing our public officials.

The closed primary system has made it that much easier for the two parties to fix election outcomes to protect incumbents and the big corporate interests they represent. That’s why my opponent Debbie Wasserman Shultz supports closed primaries.

Many of you have spoken out in favor of “opening up” our primaries, an election law reform that would enfranchise millions of new primary voters and breathe new life into our fading democracy.

At Progress For All, we have taken up this call. Over the past year, we have joined together with Open Primaries and Florida Fair and Open Primaries – two leading election reform groups advocating for open primaries – to push for a statewide referendum providing for “Open Primaries” to be placed on the 2018 Florida ballot.

Progress For All also supported a statewide survey taken among 735 registered voters in Florida – Republicans, Democrats and those with no party affiliation. We released the results of that survey earlier this year, which showed overwhelming support for reforming the state’s primary elections. A supermajority 73% of Floridians polled said that primaries should be open to all voters.

Since the survey, we have amplified our grassroots campaign, growing our coalition for open primaries, educating voters and testifying at nine public hearings before the Florida Constitution Revision Commission – where open primaries emerged as one of the top issues that voters in the state said needed to be reformed. Our groups organized scores of Floridians to publicly share their experiences on being denied the chance to vote in selection primaries and encouraged the Commission to put a primary reform measure on the 2018 ballot.

The Commission has set a deadline of September 22 for proposal submissions. We are now vigorously collecting petitions that we will deliver to each Commissioner as part of our campaign to build support and momentum for a referendum.

Election reform in the swing state of Florida – now the third most populous state – will be a bellwether for the rest of the country. Please sign our petition here to ensure all voters have a voice in primary elections.

Our aggressive campaign comes in the wake of the 2016 presidential primaries, which drew claims of a “rigged” process and saw 28 million independent voters across the country, including 3.5 million Floridians, locked out of the all-important primaries, the first round of elections. And yet, Florida taxpayers paid over $13 million dollars in 2016 alone for closed, partisan primaries.

Throughout the presidential election, Senator Bernie Sanders did well in open primaries by attracting a large number of new voters, including Millennials who voted for the very first time. In those states that had open primaries, Bernie was able to expand the base for the Democratic Party.  

This is exactly what Progress For All and our coalition partners aim to accomplish – first in Florida and later by expanding our efforts in other states. We also know that while Open Primaries are necessary, they are not sufficient. That’s why Progress For All is pushing for election integrity reforms to ensure that our elections and ballot counting are transparent and that votes are verifiable.

Progress For All takes no money from any corporations or political action committees (PACs) or SuperPACs. We rely on small donations from the grassroots, from people like you. Can you donate $27 or whatever you can now to help us continue our organizing efforts to get a referendum on the 2018 ballot?

If we truly believe in democracy, we have nothing to fear from opening up the election process to more competition – more candidates, more parties, more debates. Likewise, open primaries are good for democracy because they encourage full citizen participation in our elections, regardless of party.

We call on both national political parties to support this reform. Since both Democrats and Republicans often need independent voters to win elections at the general election stage, they should stop making it so difficult for such voters to join the electoral process. They should welcome open primaries, which will allow each party to address the issues that matter most to all voters.

Thank you for your continued support for open primaries, helping us grow our coalition and spreading the word on the importance of reforming our elections in Florida and across the nation.

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