Miami’s Democratic Party takes first steps towards open primaries in Florida.
Miami-Dade’s local Democratic Party leadership plans to campaign across the state of Florida to find the support needed from sixty-seven county Democratic Executive Committees and their leadership in order to create the statewide party rule change. Currently, Florida Democratic Party (FDP) rules forbid non-party affiliated (NPA) voters from participating in party primaries for president and statewide office.
The Miami-Dade Democratic Executive Committee (DEC) is the top governing body for the local party which consists of 251 voting members including 14 state legislators who represent districts in Miami-Dade as well as 4 US Congresswomen. The Chairman of the Miami-Dade DEC is Steve Simeonidis, its First Vice Chair is Maria-Elena Lopez.
In Florida, 3.6 million taxpaying NPA voters are prohibited from voting in the primary their tax dollars pay for. It’s one of only nine states that have completely closed primaries.
A 2017 League of Women's Voters study indicates that Florida has an average of only 22% of all registered voters determining the general election candidates for public office since the year 2000. That equals just barely more than 10% of the voters from each of the two major parties selecting most political nominees for public office.
Allowing independent voters to participate in primaries results in primary candidates communicating on a broader range of issues with a larger number of mainstream voters, instead of just the partisan elements of their parties. In order to win, they will need to reach out to the more common concerns of the participating voters to earn their votes.
“If a party wants to broaden its reach for the general election, allowing independents to cast ballots in primaries could help with both party building and boosting turnout,” according to the Commission on Political Reform. An independent analysis published on bipartisanpolicy.org shows that “states with open primaries do have higher turnout.”
“It is clear there is a clamoring for change.” Says Dr. Sean Foreman, Chair Department of History and Political Science at Barry University. “Open primaries can be a vehicle for greater citizen participation.”
“The more people that vote the more Democrats get elected,” says Dr. Jeffrey Solomon, speaking about open primaries with the DEC Issues Committee. “If we invite independent voters locked out of the nomination process, we believe that they are more likely to join us in the general election.”
“In order to win elections, we need to conduct outreach and make inroads with voters not affiliated with a party,” said Miami-Dade Democratic Party Chair Stephen Simeonidis. “We need actions, not mere words and there is no stronger action than to welcome their voice in our primaries.”
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