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Mitch Perry Report for 2.16.16 – Time to stop penalizing indie voters in Florida

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Greetings from the EconoLodge in Tallahassee.

A week ago in New Hampshire, tens of thousands of registered independents became Democrats or Republicans for a day (or more accurately, the time it took to cast their vote) so they could vote in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary election. Although some critics scoffed at how influential independents were in the actual vote, the more important fact is that state law in New Hampshire allows registered voters to become party members so they can actually weigh in on this most exciting election on the day of the election.

Not the case in the Sunshine State, which is why is Tuesday is such a vital day for the increasing number of registered independents. The deadline to change your party registration expires at midnight, so if you’re one of those indies who wants to weigh in for the Florida presidential primary election on March 15, time to get busy.

The Tallahassee Democrat reports Tuesday morning that more than 2,000 registered independents in Leon County have joined the Democratic or Republican parties since Jan. 1, the biggest move of local voters with no party affiliation or minor party membership to the major parties in more than 20 years.

The reason is obvious: If you give a damn about politics, you don’t want to be left out. But more and more people in Florida (as is the case around the country) don’t care at all about the political parties. That attitude is penalized here in Florida, where you’re out of luck on Election Day if you’re not signed up with the R’s or D’s.

Obviously, the best move to serve the people of this state would be to allow for open primary elections, to allow what happened in New Hampshire (where people are so engaged) to happen here. There appears to be little appetite for that here in the state’s Capitol, alas.

Meanwhile, arguments continue (as they do every four years at this time), that Iowa and New Hampshire should no longer be the first in the nation states to get so much power when it comes to the presidential election.

I’m totally down with eliminating Iowa, or, at least, changing it from a caucus to a primary. What happened there two weeks ago was outrageous, what with the coin flips and well, the fact that on the Republican side, the state continues to elect candidates who generally are considered too socially conservative for even the rest of the national GOP base.

I’m partial to New Hampshire after spending an incredible week there, but still, the state is 97 percent white, which is not representative of the US of A in 2016.

In today’s New York Times, reporter Emma Roller makes a compelling case for Ohio to go first. It’s a swing state like Florida, but not as unwieldy. Sorry Floridians, this state could never do retail like New Hampshire. It’s too darned big.

In other news …

The Florida GOP Senate candidates weighed in on the current situation with the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Jeb Bush also has his opinions about what Barack Obama should do. He calls Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan “out of the mainstream.”

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And there’s a Ted Cruz rally this Saturday in Clearwater, sans Ted Cruz.

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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