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Voters Question 'Openness' Of Florida Primary

Bobbie O'Brien
WUSF Public Media

Floridians voted almost 20 years ago to open primary ballots and allow all voters to decide a race if the only candidates were from the same political party.

However, a loophole using write-in candidates is thwarting what many say is the spirit of that 1998 constitutional amendment. And some voters in Tuesday's primary election agreed.

“I think both parties (Republicans and Democrats) are afraid that if they open up that loophole, they’ll get groups to go and push for candidates that are more favorable to their movements,” said J.B. Davis, a Republican small business owner, outside his south Tampa precinct. “I think people should be allowed to vote no matter what party you’re in.”

All it takes is one outside write-in candidate to close a race between same-party candidates to all but those registered to that party.

“As an independent voter, I would love to see open primaries,” said Roger Breit, a seventh grade civics teacher in Tampa. “I would actually like to see progressive voting whereby you have your number one pick, your number two pick, your number three pick so that would allow a little bit more access by third party candidates.”

There were a record 35 write-in candidates in Florida’s primary Tuesday, disenfranchising 1.6 million voters, according to a Tampa Bay Times investigation.

Bobbie O’Brien has been a Reporter/Producer at WUSF since 1991. She reports on general news topics in Florida and the Tampa Bay region.
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