Florida could have a less partisan electoral process if a new petition gets on the 2016 ballot. Or it could make Sunshine State politicians even less sane than they already are.
All Voters Vote Inc., a Tallahassee-based group, filed a petition that would make Florida a "top-two" primary state. In this process — which is the model in Nebraska, Louisiana, Washington, and California — all candidates, regardless of party, run against one another in an open primary. The two candidates with the most votes in the first round then run against each other in the general election.
The "top-two" system is currently used only for congressional and statewide elections.
Proponents of the model say it results in less partisan elections and forces candidates' to move toward the "center." New York Sen. Chuck Schumer wrote a New York Times op-ed piece last year praising the model and urging a nationwide movement to adopt it.
"This would prevent a hard-right or hard-left candidate from gaining office with the support of just a sliver of the voters of the vastly diminished primary electorate; to finish in the top two, candidates from either party would have to reach out to the broad middle," Schumer wrote.
But not everybody thinks the top-two system is the golden ticket to end grinding partisanship.
In 2010, when California held a vote to decide if that state should use the top-two model, debate was intense. And Peter Schrag, a columnist for the Sacramento Bee, was skeptical of the effects, including a new wave of candidates who are even more dependent upon special interest money than they already were.
"It raises a number of troubling issues," Schrag wrote. "In requiring primary candidates to appeal to all voters, not just Democrats or Republicans or Greens in their respective primaries, it could well raise the cost of campaigning and make candidates yet more beholden to the deep pockets who supply most of the financing."
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Other skeptics point out that Louisiana has had a top-two system since 1975, but that state hasn't exactly been a model of centrism, including that one time a grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan finished second in the top-two race for governor in 1991 (after two years as a state representative).
But Washington also has a top-two system, and that state has legalized marijuana and Seattle has a $15 minimum wage, which could soon go statewide, so maybe there's something to this top-two thing.
Below is the language of the petition. And here is a link to the petition itself.