Florida Open Primaries


The Research


There are currently 3.8 million non-affiliated voters in Florida. They represent over 27% of the electorate and are currently barred from voting in primary elections. 
Most Florida cities have been using nonpartisan open primaries for years, and citizens overwhelmingly prefer them. In fact, 85% of all US cities use nonpartisan open primaries.
According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, states with closed primaries, like Florida, average 20.7% participation in primaries. States with open primaries average 24.5% participation in primaries. Bigger pool and higher voting rates equals greater participation, and that is a good thing.
In the 2020 election, a proposed constitutional amendment would have given Florida an open primary. It received a 57% favorable vote, not quite enough to meet the 60% required to become law. 
Both parties have gone to extreme lengths to shut out Florida voters.
Check out some of the latest and most relevant research/resources on open primaries and the rise of independent voters:
Flor⁠i⁠da’s Chang⁠i⁠ng Elec⁠t⁠ora⁠t⁠e: More Rac⁠i⁠ally/E⁠t⁠hn⁠i⁠cally and Age D⁠i⁠verse
By Susan A. MacManus, USF Distinguished University Professor Emerita (James Madison University)
Primary Turnout: Trends and Lessons for Boosting Participation 

Joshua Ferrar, Michael Thorning (Bipartisan Policy Center)

Dr. Richard Barton/Unite America Institute
John Opdycke (President, Open Primaries) & Jeremy Gruber (Senior VP, Open Primaries)
Open Primaries Veterans Fact Sheet 
Open Primaries Staff
Electoral Competition Fact Sheet 
Open Primaries Staff
Nebraska Fact Sheet 
Open Primaries Staff
California Fact Sheet
Open Primaries Staff
Independent Voter Fact Sheet 
Open Primaries Staff
Open Primaries & Communities of Color Fact Sheet 
Open Primaries Staff

Florida Write-in Loophole

In 1998, voters approved an initiative with 64% of the vote that when candidates run unopposed in the primary, all voters can vote in what is the defacto general election.

Subsequently, then Secretary of State Katherine Harris wrote in an opinion that write-in candidates registered as members of the party that isn’t fielding a candidate can close the primary.

Political insiders of both parties have been openly and brazenly perpetuating this fraud on Florida voters for over twenty years. The Write-In Loophole reverses the will of the voters in passing the Universal Primary. It’s one of the worst abuses of voter rights in the country today. 

Every election cycle the Florida press reports on races where the write-in loophole was used to shut out voters. But no one has ever looked at the scale of these abuses. Until now.

We took a deep dive into the largest ongoing act of voter suppression in the state of Florida-studying races for Congress and state legislature over the 25 year period that the Universal Primary Amendment has been in place.

What we found was shocking.

  • A total of 114 races-from 1998 to 2022- that should have been open to all voters were closed by write-in candidates.
  • Republicans were shut out of 47 of these races, while Democrats were shut out of 67 races. Independent voters were shut out of all 114 primary races.
  • A total of 8,204,603 voters were disenfranchised by the application of the write-in loophole.
  • The issue is not one-sided‒1,297,802 Republicans, 3,217,279 Democrats, and 3,689,522 independent voters were shut out of these primary elections.
  • This is happening all over the state of Florida. Races where one party had a sizable registration advantage, races where the parties were at parity but one party failed to recruit a candidate and everything in between were implicated.
  • Both Democrats and Republicans are abusing the write-in loophole and shutting out millions of voters in the process.

How legitimate are these write-in candidates? Decide for yourself.

  • 114 of the 137 write-in congressional and state legislative races candidates studied spent $0 on their campaigns.
  • At least 104 of these candidates had no campaign staff, listing themselves as their own campaign treasurer for example.
  • Over a dozen of these candidates-and possibly more- filed from outside the district they were running in.

How extensive is this corruption? How many other races-from statewide offices, to county commissioners, to city council and more-have been affected?

Our research raises more questions than answers, and we hope it can serve as the foundation for more extensive inquiries.

One thing, though, is clear. We must close the write-in loophole permanently if we are to protect voters, democracy and the rule of law in Florida.

             Researcher Bio:

Paul Rader is a nonpartisan political analyst, researcher, and speaker whose work seeks to bridge the public’s knowledge gaps about politics, close the partisan and ideological divide, and increase citizens’ political efficacy and interest in politics and public policy. Paul is also a self-published author, writing and publishing his first book, Why Independents Rarely Win Elections: And How They Could Become More Competitive, in 2021, and he writes a Medium blog from time to time.