Diversity, equity, and inclusion are central to our organization’s current and future success in engaging all individuals, households, communities, and policymakers in creating a more perfect democracy.
We now believe supporting Amendment 3 would go against our resolute commitment to being diverse, equitable, and inclusive. Several of our Black and Brown members as well as organizational partners from across the state expressed concern over our position and implored us to revisit it.
The current political climate has shed a light on the prevalence of systemic racism and the continued silencing of minority voices. The League is committed to ensuring that these deep-rooted racial issues in our nation and state are dealt with and we want to use our position to lift those voices that are routinely silenced.
After taking a look at the current drawing of Florida Senate and State House districts, it has become clear we cannot support a change to our state constitution that would likely further silence the minority communities or candidates within these districts. Here is data that shows the potential impacts.
The League cannot ignore that the Top Two system has the potential to severely impact the minority voting strength in many Florida districts and could have severe Voting Rights Act implications going forward.
In the U.S., where implicit racial bias is still a powerful force, the race of Top Two Open Primary winners is largely determined by which demographic – White or non-White – predominates. Study of the demographic results of Top Two primaries in which Blacks were elected to office show that, in each case, the population of the electorate’s region was majority non-White.
California is often used as a model for proponents of the Top Two Open Primary. We all know that Florida and California have vastly different makeups of population and electorates. Additionally, research on California’s top two primaries has shown no increase in moderate candidates and no increase in turnout among nonpartisan voters.
It is absolutely worth acknowledging that this suppression or silencing was not the likely intent of the amendment sponsor, but it is a reality that has been brought to the forefront.
Please note that the Study & Action language we voted in at our 2017 State Convention has not been disregarded. That language reads as follows: “The local Leagues also achieved consensus recommending statewide use of a form of Open Primary election systems that would allow for the broadest possible voter participation, including NPA and minor party affiliated voters. Open Primaries also provide access to a broader slate of candidates that would increase voter participation.”
The League of Women Voters of Florida is very much in support of Open Primaries and would wholeheartedly support this measure if it were not tied to Top Two. We are hopeful and will continue to advocate for a future Open Primary opportunity that will enfranchise Florida’s NPA voters and those who belong to nontraditional parties in our primary process.