“All  Voters Vote” measure needs passage to correct political self-identity oversight in Florida

To the editor:

George Washington predicted what would happen if political parties formed to dominate the election process. We are living his nightmare. Fortunately, there is something we can do about it.

Among the many important issues on the ballot in November is Amendment 3, the “All Voters Vote” proposal that addresses one of the worst parts of the current electoral system in Florida.

For a breakdown of the 6 Constitutional Amendments on the November 3 ballot, click here.

The problem is simple. As this is written over 3.5 million Florida voters are effectively barred from participating in primary elections for the legislature and statewide office because they have declined to self-identify as Republican or Democrat and instead, have registered as “no party affiliation.” The practical effect has been to exclude almost one third of all voters from the process of selecting the leaders who control our future.

In all but a handful of legislative districts there is no contest in a general election – either the Republican or Democratic nominee is certain to win. Thus, the private party nominations, funded by millions of taxpayer dollars, are decided in “plurality” primaries, where the most votes wins whether a majority or not. The result has been that candidates running for nomination in either of the major parties are required to pander to the most extreme elements within the party. Growing extremism has led many voters to decline affiliation with any political party. An unintended consequence of the growth in the number of voters who register with no party affiliation is that it moves both parties still further to the edges of reality, bringing our legislative bodies into embarrassing displays of bitter and ignorant partisanship.

All Voters Vote is quite simple. It is called democracy. The political parties can pay for whatever process they choose to nominate candidates. The primary paid for by taxpayers, however, will include all voters and all candidates. The ballot will reflect party affiliation if requested by a candidate and identify who has been nominated. Everyone will vote, whether Republican, Democrat or NPA to decide who will speak for us. The top two vote getters will compete in a run-off election where the winner will have the support of a clear majority. And, the candidates, during the entire election process. will have to appeal to all voters, not just their perceived “base.”

Critics say that run-off elections could result in two Republicans or two Democrats in some races. That is a feature not a bug. If that is what the voters want, that is what they are entitled to have and, at the end, the winner will have gained a majority of all voters.

The enormous success of the Village of Key Biscayne is a testimonial to what good people can accomplish when they work together without partisanship. The many Key Biscayners who worked tirelessly to gain independence from the county over 30 years ago – and the many since then whose contributions built and maintain the local government the pro-incorporators thought possible -- were Republicans, Democrats, independents, conservatives, liberals and whatever, who saw common goals and set out together to achieve them. In the process, all of us together proved one element of conservative orthodoxy – small local governments close to the people are more efficient, more honest and will result in lower tax burdens.

The village was not a bi-partisan undertaking. It was a no-partisan undertaking, leading us to the lowest municipal tax rate in all of the county and the highest levels of public service that future leaders, elected in the same no-partisan effort, can every day make better.

I hope you will join me in supporting All Voters Vote and in rejecting the efforts now underway to introduce partisan elections for the village. Partisanship does not work in Washington or Tallahassee.

We certainly don’t need it here.

Gene Stearns