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Guest opinion: Election ‘loophole’ disenfranchises Florida voters

July 10, 2014
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

This year 57 percent of the voters in Cape Coral will be denied their right to vote for which of the four candidates, whose names will be printed on the ballot, will be their next Florida State Representative.

Our individual right to vote is one of the most sacred possessions we have in our country. As a combat decorated veteran, I fought for each citizen's right to vote for their representatives. Our U.S. Constitution even references our right to vote five times. It saddens me this right being taken away by a loophole in the law written by the very people we elected.

Voters in Florida House District 77 (Cape Coral) have a right to know that this is NOT a typical "closed" Primary.

A typical closed primary is mandated by Florida law when there are only candidates from one party competing in a Primary election AND there are candidate(s) from the other parties or independents on the General Election Ballot in November. In a "closed" Primary is ONLY voters registered in the party matching the candidates' party are allowed to vote in the primary. The winner of the primary election then has their name printed on the general election ballot along with the candidate(s) from the other parties or Independent. In the General election ALL registered voters would vote for their choice from the multiple names on the general election ballot. This is the way it should work.

Florida law also mandates an OPEN PRIMARY if there are ONLY members of one party on the Primary ballot AND there are NO other candidates from other parties or independents on the General Election Ballot, THEN the Primary is open to all voters regardless of party. Since the winner of the Primary automatically becomes the winner of the general election. Opening the primary allows ALL voters to participate in the selection of their representative.

A loophole in the Florida law is being used to deny the majority (57 percent) of Cape Coral voters their right to vote for their State Representative. Even though there are only four candidates from one party in the Primary election and the Winner will be the ONLY name printed on the ballot in the General Election, the primary is "closed" and only voters of one party will be allowed to vote in the primary. This is NOT a normal closed primary.

If you are a registered Independent, "Other Party" or Democrat voter you will not be allowed to vote for which of the four candidates for state house will represent you!

This loophole is only used to help an incumbent or party favorite who may have strong opposition in the primary. Florida is one of very few states to still have this loophole.

Without a write-in, there would be the four Republicans on the primary ballot but ALL voters would select which candidate would represent Cape Coral. There would not be a listing on the general election ballot since the winner was picked in the primary.

With a write-in candidate, there would be the four Republicans on the Primary ballot but ONLY Republicans would be allowed to vote in the primary. The winner of the primary would be the solitary name on the Ballot in November to choose from.

Jeremy Wood, age 22 of Cape Coral is the person responsible for triggering this loophole in the law in the last minutes of the qualification period on June 20. Jeremy was not required to pay a filing fee of $1,187.88 (no party) or gather 1,053 petitions to become a candidate. Jeremy Wood just needed a postage stamp.

Jeremy's name won't be printed on the ballot and, if like many write-in candidates, probably won't use any yard signs or campaign materials.

Write in candidates usually do not have much support or any chance of winning.

Serious candidates who truly want to represent all of the voters in their district spend a great deal of their time and money to earn the respect and votes of the residents.

It is no surprise we have low voter turnout and disenchanted voters when the parties or candidates manipulate the system like this. Both major parties in Florida have used this loophole to their party's advantage.

Until these outdated laws are changed, there is a way around this political loophole to make your voice heard. Excluded voters can change their party affiliation for 30 days prior to the Aug. 26 to vote in the primary, then change back after the election. Contact the supervisor of elections to change by July 25.

While I agree that normal closed primaries serve the purpose of keeping an opposing party from altering the party selection process, this loophole is not needed.

Voters are should be able to choose their candidates, not the other way around.

- Jim Roach, of Cape Coral, is a candidate for Florida House Seat 77



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