TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – One of six constitutional amendments that Florida voters will see on their general election ballots will be labeled “All Voters Vote.”
If passed, Amendment 3 would require every candidate in a statewide or legislative race to appear on a single primary ballot, regardless of party.
The Florida Legislative Black Caucus has announced its opposition to the amendment, citing concerns that it could affect political representation for communities that are mostly comprised of people of color.
“Black voting share in the Democratic Primary in (Jacksonville), Sen. (Audrey) Gibson’s seat is 70% right now. If this were to pass, that number would drop to 43%,” said former state Rep. Sean Shaw, who represented a district in Tampa.
News4Jax spoke with Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson, who represents Florida Senate District 6 and is a member of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus.
“Someone could potentially pack candidates into a district like Senate District 6, and so the minority community could not elect a minority. That’s a problem across this state. We have several districts, two Senate Districts, that are majority-minority," Gibson said regarding concerns that if enough candidates are put in a primary, it could skew the results.
Under the amendment, the two candidates who get the most votes, regardless of party, would advance to the general election.
“The amendment is counter to the Voting Rights Act in the sense that potential for people of color, communities of color not being able to elect a candidate of their choice and who has similar interests in a district," Gibson said.
The political action committee backing Amendment 3 is called All Voters Vote, which disputes the claims of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus and claims the caucus is basing its position off a faulty report that came from the group People Over Profits.
All Voters Vote said the amendment would help get more representation from communities of color because there are many closed primaries around the state where thousands of voters are not allowed to vote.
A couple of recent high-profile examples in Northeast Florida would be the races for sheriff in St. Johns and Clay counties. In both those cases, the race was essentially decided in the Republican primary because a Democrat didn’t run. A write-in candidate ran in both races, closing the primary and only allowing Republican voters. Write-in candidates are allowed to run in the general election. In fact, in the Clay County sheriff’s race, the write-in candidate for sheriff dropped out of the race the day after the primary.
News4Jax political analyst Rick Mullaney said Amendment 3 was designed to help independents have more of a say in Florida’s political process.
“It takes 60% for this to pass, and when it was first put on the ballot, it was greeted fairly favorably. Since then, the messaging has started to come out from the Democratic Party, from the Republican Party, from African American leadership that there are concerns about the amendment,” Mullaney said.
Both political parties oppose Amendment 3 and both spoke out against it at Florida’s Supreme Court last year.
Democrats were quick to point out that in 2018 the top two vote-getters in the race for governor were both Republicans.
“If this had been the law of the land in 2018, the top two vote-getters for governor were Ron Desantis and Adam Putnam,” Shaw said.
In a previous interview, the All Voters Vote committee told Capitol News Service that the idea of two GOP candidates advancing to the general election ignores reality.
“That is a falsehood perpetrated by both parties. And they’re doing something that’s very hypocritical. They’re forgetting about 3.7 million voters who are nonparty affiliates who couldn’t have voted in those primaries,” said Glen Burhans, of All Voters Vote.
So far, there has been little organized opposition to All Voters Vote. That could change, but time is running out to raise money and mount a campaign against it.
If approved by 60% of the voters, the amendment will likely be challenged over whether the Voting Rights Act and the Fair Districting Amendment to the state Constitution require minorities have an opportunity to be elected.