League of Women Voters studying possibilities for increased voter turnout

League of Women Voters studying possibilities for increased voter turnout

The League of Women Voters is looking to increase voter turnout after years of low voting rates.

The league has been working on a state-wide study to improve voter turnout since 2015. They are looking at possibilities of same day registration and open primaries to all voters.

"They are trying to open up the process to make it easier for voters to make their decisions," said Ray Hudkins, a member of the State Open Primary Study Committee.

Their study includes a survey of millennial voters, one of the fastest growing group of voters in the country. But most of these young, active voters are not picking the major political parties.

"Generally speaking, they wanted to be free to choose a candidate. They didn't really believe that either party met their needs so affiliating with a party, to them, just seemed like kinda of a false statement or a false process," Hudkins said.

Once the study is complete, the next steps could be the toughest to create change.

"Legislation will be required in a lot of instances, in some cases it may require a constitutional amendment, which of course is a step hill to climb," Hudkins said.

Right now, Florida is a closed primary state, meaning registered voters can only vote with the party they are affiliated with, but there is an expectation that could make a race open to all voters.

"If at the end of qualifying, there's only be candidate of one political party, then that primary is open to all voters," said David Stafford, Escambia County Supervisor of Elections.

Stafford added an open primary is usually squashed by a write-in candidate for an opposing party, an amendment that was added to Florida's Constitution in 1998.

"The individuals that wrote the language had no understanding that write-ins are always in November. So they actually wrote the language incorrectly, which could have been avoided had they had a Supervisor of Elections on the Constitutional Review omission," said Ion Sancho, Leon County Supervisor of Elections.

Every 20 years, the Constitutional Review Commission meets to choose items that will go on the ballot and they are already gearing up for the 2018 election.

But there is possible pushback from major political parties,

"Some people say 'Why should somebody else, other than my political party to choice my nominee? We'll still have the general election.' Other folks say 'Well that's the way it is on paper, but in practice, a lot of these races are decided in the primary,"' Stafford said.

The changes could come quicker through the legislature and that means getting law makers on board. Then there is always the pricey route of a citizen-led initiative, hiring lobbyists and buying advertising, to get an amendment on the ballot.

League of Women Voters of the Pensacola Bay Area will host a program presented by Hudkins on the study on Saturday, Nov. 19 at 10:30 a.m.

The meeting will be held at the Tryon Branch Library, 1200 Langley Ave. It's free and open to the public.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off