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Mitch Perry Report for 3.15.16 – Is it really Election Day when 2 million people have already voted?

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Although today is Election Day in Florida, that’s sort of a misnomer, considering that over 2 million Floridians have already voted in our presidential primary.

However, nearly a quarter of all registered voters aren’t part of that total, and won’t be after tonight.

That’s because they’re registered independent, or Non-Party-Affiliated. There is 3.25 million of them in the Sunshine State.

I’ve heard the arguments from the political parties about why Florida should retain its closed-primary system that allows only registered Democrats to vote in a Democratic race and the same for Republicans, but that argument is effectively disenfranchising millions of people in Florida.

Things in society are changing, in case you haven’t noticed. And more and more people, especially millennials, want nothing to do with the political party system. That doesn’t mean, however, that they don’t want to participate in the electoral process. They’re not mutually exclusive.

As we reported last week, a poll commissioned by  Open Primaries, a national nonprofit group advocating for open and nonpartisan primary systems,. reported that 88  percent of Florida’s independents believe that their exclusion in Florida’s closed primary system is unfair, and 88 percent said they are independent because neither party represents them.

An attempt to change that via the state Constitution went nowhere this past year. If it’s going to change, it’s going to have to be through a citizen’s led effort here in Florida, since the political parties have no interest in aiding the cause.

That’s too bad, because Democrats in particular like to complain about efforts by Republicans to suppress the vote. Yet the closed primary system in 2016 does just that.

Last Friday I had an interaction with an official at my local bank. After we were done with the business that I came to the bank for, I asked him if he was voting today. He said he wasn’t sure if he was registered or where his polling location was, so we went online to the Hillsborough County SOE’s website.

There he learned that he wasn’t registered. Though disappointed, he excitedly went ahead and signed up then and there, only to be disappointed when I told him that he still was too late to vote today. And because he was registering as a NPA, he wouldn’t be able to vote in our next election, on August 30. He can vote in November, though.

The fact is, in other states you could register as late as Friday to vote today. Why is that system worse than what we have now?

P.S. I went to vote on Saturday at my local polling location, and was stunned to learn that I could not vote. I’ve switched around my party registration all the time, and currently am registered NPA, and had obviously failed to change that by the deadline last month. So that’s on me. Nevertheless, it’s the first election ever that I’m not participating in.

In the news…

Donald Trump brought in the big guns – Sarah Palin, Chris Christie  surprise endorsee Pam Bondi to set the table for him at his town-hall meeting at the Tampa Convention Center on Monday afternoon.

Before the Trump town hall, citizens protesting his candidacy marched to the Convention Center.

A few months ago, David Jolly called on Trump to quit the race after his remark about banning Muslims from the U.S., now realizing they might share the same ticket this November, David Jolly says he’s still pondering getting behind the New York City real estate mogul’s run for the White House.

And Sean Shaw is poised to make another run for the House District 61 seat that encompasses much of Tampa’s downtown urban core.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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