Open the primaries, former Bar president says – Florida Politics (blog)
With Constitution Revision Commissioner William “Bill” Schifino Jr.’s recent proposal to open Florida’s primaries, a nationwide movement has some steam in the Sunshine State.
Specifically, the change proposed by Schifino—a Tampa attorney and 2016-2017 president of The Florida Bar—would allow independent voters to cast ballots in primary elections.
Florida’s constitution currently provides for closed primaries: Elections in which votes for primary candidates can only be cast by voters within their respective parties, which excludes the more than 3.4 million registered “no party affiliated” (NPA) voters in Florida.
If placed on the ballot in 2018 and approved by 60 percent of voters, Schifino’s amendment would give NPA voters freedom to “vote a primary election ballot of a political party.”
The amendment does not change constraints to registered voters. Under Schifino’s amendment, those registered as Democrats may still only in Democratic primaries. The same goes for registered Republicans.
The idea for the amendment, Schifino said, stemmed from the CRC’s listening tour around the state during the first half of this year, when the commissioners gathered insight from the public before moving forward with proposals. Having attended most of those meetings, Schifino said the public had a recurring interest in opening Florida’s primaries to NPAs.
“Probably each and every (meeting) I attended there were always citizens addressing the issue,” Schifino said. He added it was even brought up by some supervisors of elections at an Ethics and Elections Committee meeting earlier this year.
Before introducing the proposal ahead of the Commission’s Oct. 31 deadline, Schifino, who sits on the CRC’s Ethics and Elections Committee, ran the idea by friends and peers and decided to move forward with a formal amendment.
In doing so, Schifino, managing partner for Tampa’s Burr & Forman firm, and an appointee