This Week's Poll


Florida Amendment 3
- “Top-Two” primary proposal for 2020 ballot

By Tami Stevenson

Following in the footsteps of only three other states – Washington, California and Louisiana – Florida voters may be deciding on whether to change the primary voting process that has been in place for well over a hundred years in November of 2020 from a “closed” primary voting system to an “open” primary.

The “closed” primary system in place today, generally limits the primary elections to voters registered with parties. The “open” or “top-two” primary system would allow all registered voters to vote in the primaries for state legislature, governor, and cabinet regardless of political party affiliation. All candidates for an office, including party nominated candidates, appear on the same primary ballot. Every registered voter would vote on any candidate they wish. The two highest vote getters advance to the general election no matter their party affiliation. They could be from the same party, two Republicans or two Democrats running against each other in the general election with the other party being completely left out. They could basically become single party elections. Both the Republican and Democratic parties are opposing this open primary initiative calling it “jungle primaries”.

Enough signatures were gathered to get this on the ballot by an organization called All Voters Vote, Inc. (AVV). This initiative has been financed mostly by one Miami businessman, Mike Fernandez, according to Drew Wilson from Wilson said Fernandez pitched in over $2M for the top-two primary amendment. Glenn Burhans, a financial services attorney based out of Tallahassee, is listed as the chairman of the AVV organization.

Once the signatures were gathered, the proposal went before the Florida Supreme Court on December 2. AVV submitted 769,545 valid signatures. To qualify, 766,200 valid signatures were required. They are still waiting for the Supreme Court ruling on correct language, etc.

Meanwhile, according to the Florida Division of Elections website, it was certified for the Florida ballot on December 6, and will be called “Florida Amendment 3, Top-Two Open Primaries for State Offices Initiative” as an initiated constitutional amendment.

AVV says this initiative will allow parties to operate as they always have with one notable exception: in taxpayer-funded public elections, they cannot exclude qualified registered voters from voting, regardless of party affiliation.

Those that are opposed to this amendment say under this “top two” primary voting structure, many voters will not be able to vote for a candidate that represents their philosophy because the two top vote-getters in a race may be of the same party resulting in only one party being represented on the November ballot.

It will not give the kind of choice voters want. It reduces everybody’s choice in the general election and decreases general election ballot diversity by eliminating third party candidates and independents.

This amendment must receive more than 60 percent of the vote to pass. If passed, this would take effect January 1, 2024