UCF student Daniel Alvarez is currently a registered Democrat, but he is considering changing his voter registration to No Party Affiliation.
“I just feel like both parties aren’t working for the average American," said Alvarez, a sophomore biology major. "It’s more so just them benefiting their donors and the people who pay them."
If Alvarez changes his affiliation to NPA, he will no longer be permitted to vote in primary elections under Florida’s current law. Amendment 3 on the ballot this fall would change that.
The amendment would allow all Floridians, regardless of party affiliation, to vote in primary elections. All candidates would be placed on a single ballot and the top two candidates who garner the most votes would proceed to the general election.
There are about 3.7 million Floridians who are registered NPA, around 26% of the total number of registered voters in Florida. That number has increased dramatically over the past few decades. In 1990, only 7% of Florida voters registered with any affiliation other than the two major parties.
“When you ignore 28% of the voters, I don’t think you can get truly a fair reflection of Florida’s diversity," said Glenn Burhans, chair of All Voters Vote, the leading organization in support of the amendment. "And you’re not going to get a fair representation of the diverse viewpoints of all those millions of voters who are shut out.”
Burhans said by including all registered voters in the primary process, the two parties will have to speak to voters who do not make up their base, forcing them to moderate their positions.
Aubrey Jewett, UCF political science professor and registered NPA voter himself, said while there isn’t any research to support the idea that open primaries would increase moderation across the board, in elections where a district leans heavily in favor of one party, including all voters in a primary could result in the election of a more moderate candidate.
Jewett also said there are some organizations, such as the League of Women Voters of Florida and NAACP Florida, that have expressed concern that the amendment would make it harder for minorities - particularly Black Floridians - to influence elections as well as win office. Jewett said there is no research that points to this being the case, although Florida has different demographics and politics than states - such as California - that the studies were conducted on.
Currently, Florida allows open primaries in elections where only one party has put forth candidates. Jewett, however, said it is rare that these primaries occur because both parties use a “legal loophole”. By recruiting write-in candidates to run in the race, the parties can close the primary and once again prevent other registered voters from participating.
“The Republican party of Florida and the Florida Democratic Party agree on virtually nothing - but they do agree on this,” Jewett said. “They both agree that they do not like the top 2 primary and they don’t want it to pass.”
Hannah Anton, president of College Democrats at UCF, said both parties are united against the way the top-two system would unfairly provide an advantage to the party with the least amount of candidates running and splitting their party’s vote.
Anton also said closed primaries create an important incentive for voters to register with a party.
“There are ways to open the primary if that’s something the voters would like to explore, but this is just the wrong way to do it,” she said.
Didi Malka, chair of College Republicans at UCF, was contacted for a comment but declined.
For Alvarez, while he would like to see Florida adapt an open primary system, he said he would be voting against Amendment 3 as he does not agree with the top-two system of selecting candidates.
In contrast, Evan Campbell, a freshman engineering major and registered NPA voter, said he will be voting for the amendment, as he wishes to reduce the influence of parties on elections.
“Other people support this amendment that have vastly different views from mine, there are some that have vastly similar views as I,” Campbell said. “With this, views don’t matter.”