Tuesday is a very exciting day.
It's an election day in Florida — a day when citizens get to make their voices heard.
Unfortunately, it is also a day when nearly 3 million voters get shut out.
I'm talking about Florida's independent and unaffiliated voters, who are prohibited from voting in closed primaries.
Those folks — the fastest-growing segment of our increasingly alienated electorate — are systematically disenfranchised.
Even more voters — those in the major parties — simply stay away by choice.
This year, we are looking at potentially record-low turnout.
In Orange County, only 7 percent of voters have turned in ballots so far. And in states throughout the nation that have already held their primaries, only 18 million voters — out of an eligible 123 million — cast ballots.
More people watched "America's Got Talent" last week.
The reasons voters stay home are plentiful. Campaigns are ugly. The system is corrupt. Politicians lie with unnerving ease and frequency.
But voters also stay away because they often feel they have no real choices.
We can change that.
Through open primaries.
I'm talking truly open primaries. Where everyone gets to vote for all the candidates.
If there are three Republicans, two Democrats and one member of the Bull Moose Party, you get to vote for whomever you want. Everybody does.
Then the top two candidates move on to the general election in November.
It could be two Republicans. It could be two Democrats. It could be one of each. Whatever it is, the best two candidates — regardless of party — get to advance.
It's called a "Top Two" primary. And variations of it are already in use in Louisiana and Washington state.
Here, you may be saying: Louisiana??!!
Sure, I know Louisiana is different. But different can be good. I mean, have you ever had sugar-coated beignets? Or crawfish étouffée? Both those things are different. And delicious!
Now, some party folks may be worried about having Democrats infiltrate Republican primaries or vice versa. You need to stop that kind of thinking. Because in top-two primaries, there are no such nominations.
There's nothing to infiltrate. It's just a wide-open contest. All the candidates state their parties. And then everyone gets to vote.
Here are some more good reasons to support top-two primaries.
•Fewer doofuses. Right now, each major party is guaranteed a spot on the November ballot — even if one party has nothing but doofuses running on its ticket. A top-two primary lets the two best candidates move on, regardless of party.
•No more shutouts. Right now there are often elections where the majority of voters never even get the chance to cast a meaningful vote. Say, for instance, that a race has two Democrats, zero Republicans and one write-in Libertarian. In the current system, only Democrats can vote in the primary. And by the time the general rolls around, the Republicans' and nonpartisans' only two choices are a Democrat and a write-in blank. That's no real choice. And it happens like that quite regularly, thanks to parties that rig the game with sham write-in candidates simply to close the primaries.
•Moderation. To win a primary right now, candidates must pander only to their party base. This means Republicans run waaaay to the right and Democrats waaaay to the left. This is why the current system yields so many extremists and why the vast majority of moderates feel ignored. In a top-two primary, candidates must appeal to all voters every time.
OK, let's say for a moment that you disagree with everything I just said above.
Let's say that you are a hard-core Democrat or hyperpartisan Republican who loves the status quo and loves your closed primaries.
Fine. Then you should pay for your own primaries.
This is one of the biggest travesties of the current system. Right now, taxpayers fund elections they can't vote in.
If a private political party wants to hold private elections, it should pay for them.
"Why does the state pay for a presidential-preference party?" asked Orange County Elections Supervisor Bill Cowles. "Or precinct-committee elections? Why are we doing the work of the political parties?"
Cowles would rather change the system. And so would I — to boost voter involvement and force candidates to think about all of their constituents.
Changing the state's primary system would be an uphill battle, probably involving a constitutional amendment.
Entrenched politicians, after all, love the status quo ... which may be the best reason to change things up.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-6141Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun