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Proposed Revamp Of Florida Primary Election Heads to State’s High Court

Mary Shedden/WUSF

Leaders of the Florida Republican and Democratic parties don’t agree on much.

But they --- along with Attorney General Ashley Moody --- are united on one thing: They want to scuttle a proposed constitutional amendment that would overhaul Florida’s primary-election system.

The Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday will hear arguments about whether it should clear the way for the proposal to go on the November 2020 ballot. The Supreme Court’s consideration of the issue is critical, because backers of the proposed amendment have submitted enough valid petition signatures to reach the ballot.

Under the proposal, spearheaded by the political committee All Voters Vote, registered voters would be able to cast ballots in primaries regardless of political affiliation. The two candidates getting the most votes in each primary would advance to the general election. Florida currently has a “closed” primary system, which limits primaries to voters registered with parties.

The Supreme Court reviews proposed ballot wording to determine whether it meets legal tests, such as not being misleading to voters.

Moody and the state parties have argued that the proposed wording of the All Voters Vote measure would not adequately explain the ramifications of the amendment.

“Voters considering whether to adopt such a radical change to Florida’s election process are entitled to a ballot summary that clearly and unambiguously describes the choice before them and is not misleading,” attorneys for the Republican Party wrote in a brief. “The proposal here fails to satisfy this basic --- yet critically important --- legal requirement.”

But attorneys for All Voters Vote dispute such arguments.

“The ballot title and summary of the All Voters Vote amendment clearly and unambiguously inform voters of its chief, and sole, purpose: allowing all qualified registered voters to vote in primary elections for state elective office without regard to the party affiliation of voters and candidates,” attorneys for the committee wrote.

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