Thursday, September 19, 2019

FL Billionaire Pitches Open Top-Two Primary to Fight Political Extremism

Mike Fernandez is Close to putting a Question on the 2020 Florida Ballot that, if Approved by Florida Voters, would Allow All voters, Regardless of Party Affiliation, to Cast a Ballot in State Primaries. ‘I’m very scared about our future’, the Florida Billionaire Pitches a Jungle Primary, or an Open Top-Two Primary, to fight Political Extremism

Fernandez, who Quit the Republican Party out of Disdain for President is Spending Millions of Dollars to Change the Primary System in Florida, a move that could Upend the State’s Political Landscape. And as the Political Battleground preps for the Upcoming Presidential Campaign, Party Leaders aren’t happy.

Fernandez, is a Miami Health Care Executive whose Family fled Cuba when he was 12. If he succeeds, Florida would follow California into a Jungle Primary system, where the Top-Two Vote-Getters, regardless if they are Republican, Democrat, or something else, would Advance to the November General Election. I would rather see a Top-Three.

Fernandez’s push is One effort among many to Rebuild the Country’s Political Center as Fissures widen on Issues such as the Economy and Immigration. Business Leaders are seeking ways to take the Edge Off Partisanship in Washington, and Industry Groups that have Traditionally Aligned with Republicans are on the Lookout for Moderate Democrats and Republicans, or Independents, to Support.

Fernandez said his Motive is Simple: The Country that brought him Prosperity has taken a Dark Turn as Both Parties Embrace Extremism and Ignore the Wishes of Independents and Third-Party Voters who make up nearly 28% of the Electorate.

Florida Republicans have Dominated Statewide Elections over the Past Two Cycles, but those Victories have been Hard-Fought and Narrowly Won. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) Won Election Last year with a Majority of about 32,000 Votes.

The Fernandez Measure would Apply Only to Legislative and Statewide Races such as Governor. Organizers drew up a Separate Amendment for Federal Races, but Opted to Spend their Money and Time on the Proposal dealing with State Offices.

Election Officials have Verified 652,000 Signatures, putting the Group on Track to reach the nearly 800,000 Required by Law to Win Space on the Ballot. Organizers say they’ve Collected more than 1 Million Voter Signatures in Total. The Amendment also still Needs to be Cleared by the State Supreme Court, which Reviews Ballot Initiatives to make sure they Meet Rules on Simplicity and Accuracy. If the Measure Wins Approval from at least 60% of Voters, it would take effect in 2024.

Fernandez has spent More than $6 Million to put the “All Voters Vote” Amendment on the Ballot and Plans to Spend More to get it Passed. “I didn’t come this far to sit by the wayside,” he said.

His Personal Interest in Opening the State’s Primary was Sparked in August 2016, when he showed up to Vote, only to Discover that he Couldn’t. Because he was No Longer Registered with a Political Party, he was Locked Out of most of the Races: Republican and Democratic State and Local Primary Contests. Here is someone who Missed their Civic Class.

Nearly 37% of Florida’s 13.4 Million Voters are Democrats and more than 35% are Republicans. Florida is One of Seven States: Delaware, Kentucky, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, and Pennsylvania, with a State Election Closed Primary System in which Voters must Register as a Member of a Party in order to Participate, and there is No Option for Independents to Vote.

If Voters Approve the Change sought by Fernandez and All Voters Vote, the Political Committee Sponsoring the Amendment, then Florida would Join California, Louisiana, and Washington, with a Jungle, Primary.

Fernandez’s bid to End Extremism in Politics has had the ironic effect of Unifying Florida’s Democratic and Republican Parties in Opposition to his effort. While neither Party has formulated a Strategy or Committed to Spending to Kill the Proposal, Republican and Democratic Party Leaders Warn of its Potential for Dramatic Consequences. Democrats pointed to Last year’s Election in which Two Republican Nominees for Governor Received more Votes than any Democratic Nominee.

“If this had been law in 2018, voters would have had to choose between Ron DeSantis and Adam Putnam for governor,” said Terrie Rizzo, Chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party. “A proposal which eliminate the chance for a Democrat to make the ballot is not democratic.” The Initiative furthermore would Penalize Parties with Multiple Candidates, she said. “It is a thinly veiled attempt by wealthy special interests to stifle democracy, plain and simple,” Rizzo said.

Rep. Blaise Ingoglia (R-35th District, Spring Hill), Former Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, said an Open Primary would drive up the Cost of Campaigns in a State where Candidates already are Forced to spend Tens of Millions of Dollars to Win Elections. “If you think big money is influencing elections now, just wait,” he said. “You will basically drown out grassroots voters.”

State Republican Party Chairman Joe Gruters (R-23rd District, Sarasota) said the Proposed Constitutional Amendment Strips Floridians' of their Right to have a Say in their Party’s Nominee. “It is nothing more than a relief act for political consultants, party insiders and lobbyists,” Gruters said.

Ingoglia also Fears that the State could End-Up with “two moderate parties that are indistinguishable. You really don’t have a real choice, because everyone is trying to court a certain type of voters who is not part of their party base,” he said.

But that’s exactly what Fernandez wants. “This is not an anti-Republican, anti-Democrat effort,” Fernandez said. “This is not an effort to dethrone the parties. This is an effort to bring logic back into the system.”

While Party Insiders strongly Oppose the Amendment, Political Consultants are more Skeptical about the Ballot Measure’s potential Effect. Ryan Tyson, a Pollster and Political Consultant, said Voters who don’t Identify as Republican or Democrat have Participated at Lower Turnout Levels in the Last few Elections compared with Voters Affiliated with the Major Parties.

In 2018, Turnout among those with No Party Affiliation or Registered with a Third Party was 48.4%, compared with more than 71% for Republicans and nearly 65% for Democrats. The Gap wasn’t as Big in 2016, but the Turnout among those Outside the Major Parties still Lagged. If Turnout wanes during what Tyson called High-Turnout General Elections, it’s not likely to increase during primaries, he said.

“There’s no real way to know how this amendment will impact the primaries as it creates a scenario that we haven’t seen before,” Tyson said.

Dan Newman, a Democratic Consultant who has Worked on Legislative and Cabinet Races, said the Change could be the Most Significant Disruption to Florida’s Politics since Voters Imposed Term Limits. But he Cautioned that it’s Difficult to Draw Comparisons to States such as California, which is Dominated by One Party, or reach Conclusions based on Past Elections.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

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