Friday, May 25, 2018
Politics

Closed primaries cry out for voter reform

They won't have a voice in the decision.

Not really.

On Aug. 26, the Supervisor of Elections Office will tally the votes in the Republican primary race for Hillsborough County Commission District 4. The winner will be all but assured of taking control of the position for the next four years.

But more than 60 percent of the registered voters in that district won't have the chance to influence the outcome.

Even though they may be super voters — people who vote in every election — they won't get to cast a vote in this particular race. Even though they may care greatly about the decisions that impact their subdivisions, their neighborhoods and their communities, they will have no say on who will be their next county commissioner.

The Republican primary victor — either Rick Cochran, Janet Dougherty or Stacy White — will simply have to defeat write-in candidate Christopher Lawrence Weaver in the general election to take the office. That is a simple task. Write-in candidates never win.

But because of Weaver's entry into the race, the law closes the primary election to Democratic and independent voters. In District 4, that's 64,888 Democrats, 45,928 independents and another 7,302 voters under the category of "other," according to statistics from the county elections supervisor.

Talk about voter suppression.

As Tampa Bay Times staff writer Michael Van Sickler noted in a recent story, this isn't limited to one race or a single party.

In State House District 64, 44,670 Democrats and independents (59 percent) will get shut out of the race between Jamie Grant and Miriam Steinberg, thanks to write-in candidate Daniel Johnson Matthews

In State House District 61, 31,062 Republicans and independents (a little less than 35 percent) will be shut out of a race featuring four Democrats — Sharon Carter, Tatiana Denson, Ed Narain and Shawn Shaw — because another little-known candidate, Nicole Santiago, has launched a write-in campaign.

Don't call this a technicality. This is election strategy by crafty consultants who find near-anonymous citizens to enter the races and create closed primaries. Sadly, it's standard operating procedure in Florida politics. Strategists criticize a party for not closing a primary instead of questioning the entire process.

The answer isn't getting the parties to field candidates who have little chance of winning. The answer is open primaries. By allowing all interested voters to exercise their rights, candidates would have to craft campaigns with broader appeal. Once in office, they would have to build a record with broader appeal.

Is it possible that our nation grows more divided and our government gets more dysfunctional because between gerrymandered districts and this kind of election trickery we're electing candidates who only have to appeal to the extreme sides in each party?

Definitely.

There must be a better way. The closed primary approach cries out for election reform.

If members of the suffrage movement fought to give voting rights to women, if civil rights workers died so blacks couldn't be denied, if the men and women of our military fight to protect our freedoms, we can't allow a large voting bloc to be shut out because of partisan gamesmanship and political high jinks.

That's all I'm saying.

Comments
North Korea demolishes nuclear test site as journalists watch

North Korea demolishes nuclear test site as journalists watch

PUNGGYE-RI, North Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made good on his promise to demolish his country’s nuclear test site, which was formally closed in a series of huge explosions Thursday as a group of foreign journalists looked on. The explosi...
Published: 05/24/18
Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

President Donald Trump’s decision to block his Twitter followers for their political views is a violation of the First Amendment, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, saying that Trump’s effort to silence his critics is not permissible under the U.S. Con...
Published: 05/23/18
All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

TAMPA — All those public watch parties during the Tampa Bay Lightning’s postseason run? And how about the rally at Joe Chillura Courthouse Square Park with the big white Lightning logo spray-painted on the grass? You need police to prote...
Published: 05/23/18
Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Explain this to me: In the world of partisan politics, how is being an independent thinker a bad thing? When it comes to general elections, we seem to like rogues and mavericks. We want outsiders and swamp scrubbers. Folks appreciate a good finger-...
Published: 05/22/18
‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Published: 05/20/18
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Published: 05/20/18
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18
Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about her role in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after ...
Published: 05/17/18
GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

WASHINGTON — Republicans are pushing for a speedy confirmation vote as early as Thursday after the Senate intelligence committee endorsed President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency. But opponents concerned about Haspel’s ...
Published: 05/16/18