GOP, Dems unify to fight open primaries

THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

TALLAHASSEE – Squaring off against Attorney General Ashley Moody and the state Republican and Democratic parties, supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment that would overhaul Florida’s primary-elections system say it complies with legal requirements to go on the November 2020 ballot. 

The political committee All Voters Vote filed a 27-page brief late Tuesday at the Florida Supreme Court contending that justices should approve the proposed ballot wording. The brief came on the same day that Moody, the Republican Party of Florida and the Florida Democratic Party made filings arguing that the Supreme Court should block the proposed amendment. 

Party wouldn’t matter

Under the proposal, registered voters would be able to cast ballots in primaries regardless of political affiliation. The two candidates getting the most votes in each primary would advance to the general election. Florida currently has a “closed” primary system, which limits primaries to voters registered with parties.

All Voters Vote needs the Supreme Court to sign off on the ballot wording, with justices looking at issues such as whether the wording would be misleading to voters. In its brief Tuesday, All Voters Vote said the proposal meets the legal requirements. 

“The ballot title and summary of the All Voters Vote amendment clearly and unambiguously inform voters of its chief, and sole, purpose: allowing all qualified registered voters to vote in primary elections for state elective office without regard to the party affiliation of voters and candidates,”attorneys for the committee wrote. 

But Moody and the state parties disagreed, arguing in part that the proposed wording would not adequately explain the ramifications of the amendment to voters. 

‘Radical change’ 

“Voters considering whether to adopt such a radical change to Florida’s election process are entitled to a ballot summary that clearly and unambiguously describes the choice before them and is not misleading,” attorneys for the Republican Party wrote. “The proposal here fails to satisfy this basic – yet critically important – legal requirement.” 

Along with needing Supreme Court approval, All Voters Vote needs to submit at least 766,200 valid petition signatures to the state Division of Elections by a February deadline. As of early Wednesday afternoon, the division had tallied 703,014 petition signatures.

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