Amendment 3 for open primaries in Florida lost, despite receiving 57 percent of the vote (and more votes than either President Trump or Joe Biden). The initiative fell shy of the 60 percent threshold required to change the Florida Constitution.
Amendment 3 “open primaries” has strong opposition. It would have allowed any registered voter, regardless of their political affiliation, to vote in primary for governor, state legislators and members of the cabinet.
On the day Florida’s secretary of State, certified petitions to get the amendment on the ballot, advocates were sued by both the Florida Democratic and Republican parties. This was expected. Open primaries are a threat to both parties because they put more power in the hands of voters. We knew passing Amendment 3 would not be easy because both parties would be against us.
What we didn’t expect, however, was that the League of Women Voters would oppose us, too.
Yes, Florida’s premier voting-rights organization stood against the enfranchisement of 3.7 million independent voters in the state — including 1.2 million voters of color.
I was a member of the Florida League of Women Voters for many years, serving as vice president of the Upper Keys Chapter. I resigned last month because of the League’s opposition to Amendment 3.
What perhaps was most offensive about the League’s decision was how it was made. It allowed partisan Democratic Party consultants to make a mockery of the organization’s processes. “Vote No on 3” was the result of partisan pressure, pure and simple, not fact-finding and research.
Members of the Florida League devoted five years to investigating the issue of Florida’s primary elections. In 2015, it commissioned a rigorous two-year study that resulted in an enthusiastic recommendation that Florida move to an open primary system. As a result, League members helped gather signatures to place Amendment 3 on the ballot.
This summer, the executive committee decided to throw years of research and exploration out the window and changed its position based on one week of closed-door discussions. There was no substantive chapter or membership input and no transparency on who, if anyone, was consulted. The League reversed itself after being presented with a report from Sean Shaw, a paid political operative and past Democratic Party candidate for Florida attorney general, who alleged that open primaries would hurt candidates of color. Shaw’s report was superficial and erroneous, but was accepted without scrutiny. There remains to this day no independent vetting of his allegations. In fact, the Florida Supreme Court, when presented with these findings in a last-minute attempt by the parties to keep open primaries off the ballot, found no credible reason to entertain them.
Courts, of course, must look at the actual evidence. The League has shown it’s clearly not bound by such standards. In coming to this rushed decision, the League ignored the findings of its own two-year study of primary systems. Open primaries do not