Dear Florida League members,
Today we write to you to address an issue that has risen to the forefront of many conversations over the past few months: Amendment 3.
What is Amendment 3? This amendment would change Florida’s Constitution Article VI, Section 5, to establish a nonpartisan primary in which all voters, regardless of party affiliation or lack of party affiliation, would be allowed to vote. It would also allow all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, to run on a single primary ballot accessible to all eligible voters. The top two vote-getters would move on to the general election.
At this time, after much deliberation, the League of Women Voters of Florida Board of Directors cannot go forward with our support of Amendment 3. We must oppose this ballot initiative. Our printed voter guide, PowerPoint presentation, and digital materials will reflect this changed position.
“This decision was not easy to come to. Supporting Amendment 3 could be seen as going against our strong preference for including all voters in the process. Our opposition comes after taking a look at the way the current Florida Senate and State House districts have been drawn. With the current makeup of these districts, the passage of this amendment likely would lead to suppression of voters and candidates from minority communities within those districts,” said Mark Songer, League of Women Voters of Florida Treasurer.
The Florida League’s Board met several times over the past few weeks to weigh the options when it came to this issue. It is important to note that in 2015 the League began a study that explored the potential effects of Open Primaries in our state. The results of that study did find the Open Primaries would have positive impacts on our state and for non-party affiliated voters but did not directly examine the effects a Top Two Open Primary would have on minority voters.
The League’s stance, as voted on by the membership at the 2017 State Convention, remains intact: “Recommend statewide use of an Open Primary system that would allow for the broadest possible voter participation, including no party affiliation and minor party-affiliated voters.” It is now clear that the ramifications of Amendment 3’s passage would not allow for the broadest possible voter participation. While the amendment's passage would enfranchise many no party affiliated voters, the potential silencing of minority voters could be detrimental to the fairness of our electoral process.
It is no secret that the current political climate has shed a light on the prevalence of systemic racism and the continued silencing of minority voices. We cannot support a change to our state constitution that would likely further this silencing.
“Our Board of Directors was presented with strong arguments for and against Amendment 3. It is our belief that Top Two Open Primaries would have a strong adverse impact on African-American representation in Florida. While this type of primary system seems to have worked in California, Florida comparatively has a different racial, political, and educational makeup,” said Cecile Scoon, League of Women Voters of Florida 1st Vice President.
Cecile continued: “Notably, the support of this amendment would have also had a negative impact on the growing relationships with community organizations made up of and led by People of Color which the League has long nurtured. For far too long, organizations with predominantly white membership have not listened to their members of color and organizational partners of color. Not doing so on Amendment 3 could create lasting distrust when the League is just beginning to work together with groups like the NAACP and African-American fraternities and sororities like the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and other impactful groups.”
“As you all know, the League of Women Voters is an organization fully committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion in principle and in practice. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are central to the organization’s current and future success in engaging all individuals, households, communities, and policymakers in creating a more perfect democracy. Supporting Amendment 3 would go against our ubiquitous and strong commitment to being diverse, equitable, and inclusive,” said League of Women Voters of Florida President Patricia Brigham.