Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

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.

.by the numbers

Hillsborough County Commission, District 4

Number of registered voters: 192,928

Number of registered Republicans: 74,810

Number of registered Democrats: 64,888

Number of registered independents/others: 53,230

State House District 61

Number of registered voters: 89,233

Number of registered Democrats: 58,171

Number of registered Republicans: 10,326

Number of registered independents/others: 20,736

State House District 64

Number of registered voters: 75,687

Number of registered Republicans: 31,017

Number of registered Democrats: 23,527

Number of indpendents/others: 21,143

Closed primaries cry out for voter reform 06/26/14 [Last modified: Thursday, June 26, 2014 10:06am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Gators rally past Kentucky, streak hits 31

    Blogs

    LEXINGTON, Ky. — For the second week in a row, Florida found itself storming the field in a game that came down to the last second. A 57-yard field-goal attempt by Kentucky kicker Austin MacGinnis came just a few feet short of making history and snapping a 30-year losing streak, as the No. 20 Gators escaped a …

    Florida wide receiver Brandon Powell (4) scores a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Lexington, Ky.
  2. Pen makes it way too interesting as Rays hang on for 9-6 win

    Blogs

    A couple of home runs provided the news pegs of the night for the Rays, but it was more topical to talk about what nearly happened as they hung on for a 9-6 win over the Orioles.

    Lucas Duda's three-run homer in the third inning was the Rays' record-breaking 217th of the season, as well as his …

  3. An attempt to project what Rays will look like in 2018

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — We know what the Rays look like this year: a team that had enough talent but too many flaws, in construction and performance, and in the next few days will be officially eliminated from a wild-card race it had a chance to win but let slip away.

    Adeiny Hechavarria, high-fiving Lucas Duda, seems likely to be brought back.
  4. Trump fallout: Bucs' DeSean Jackson to make 'statement' Sunday

    Bucs

    Bucs receiver DeSean Jackson said Saturday that he will make a "statement" before today's game against the Vikings in response to President Donald Trump's comment that owners should "fire" players who kneel in protest during the national anthem.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) makes a catch during the first half of an NFL game between the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017.
  5. Kriseman invites Steph Curry to St. Pete on Twitter

    Blogs

    Mayor Rick Kriseman is no stranger to tweaking President Donald Trump on social media.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman took to Twitter Saturday evening to wade into President Donald Trump's latest social media scuffle