Group wants change for how candidates are selected


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A bipartisan group of activists wants to drastically change the way in which Florida political candidates are selected.

The bipartisan group pushing the ballot initiative includes a former Democratic campaign manager for former Gov. Reubin Askew and former Republican Secretary of State Jim Smith.

Closed primaries now determine Florida's partisan candidates for Congress, the state Legislature, governor and cabinet.

"Currently, we have over 27 percent of Florida registered voters who are registered as non-party affiliation, or NPAs. By law, those people are blocked," said Glenn Burhans, who is part of the All Voters Vote initiative.

The group wants to open up the closed primaries and has proposed a constitutional amendment that would drastically change the primary system to allow non-party affiliated voters to cast ballots

The All Voters Vote group hopes its effort will change the way in which candidates appeal to Floridians

"By opening up the primary process, you're going to have candidates that will have to speak to a broader cross-section in order to win," Burhans said.

Candidates involved in primaries would have to appeal to more than just their base. The proposal also changes the way in which races are decided. If a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote in a primary, that candidate would win the office, or the top two would advance to a general election if there was no majority winner.

With a special session looming for the Legislature to once again draw fair districts, Burhans said the original intent was a good start, but drawing voting lines doesn't solve every problem.

"It does not address and cannot address today's problem and tomorrow's problem, which is the growing disenfranchisement of voters," Burhans said.

The group will need nearly 700,000 signatures to get the proposal on the ballot in 2016.