Editorials

Register to vote — Monday, July 30, is the deadline. Make your voice heard.

Miami Herald Editorial Board

A Miami voter shows off his sticker after casting a ballot in 2016.
A Miami voter shows off his sticker after casting a ballot in 2016.

Remember, there are people in high places who don’t want everyone to vote. Defy them.

There are people who are too unengaged to vote. Don’t be one of them.

There are people who died securing your right vote. Honor them.

Monday, July 30, is the last day that Miami-Dade County residents — and all eligible Floridians — can register to vote if they want to cast a ballot in the August 28 primary, in advance of the general election in November.

And they definitely should want to. In the primary, residents will cast a vote for who dispenses justice, who best can improve public schools, who will have a seat on the County Commission dais. They will support whom they want face the other party’s opponent in the race to occupy the Governor’s Mansion, to go to the U.S. House and the Senate.

By registering on Monday, primary voters will have the first say. Consider the primary the winnowing process. In partisan races, candidates within each party are competing for a shot to face the other party’s candidate in November.

But this goes far beyond Republican and Democrat. Florida’s closed-primary system means an increasing number of state voters can’t have a say in who makes it to the general election. By the time Floridians who are registered “No Party Affiliation” get to vote in November, the last two candidates standing — the Democrat and the Republican — have already been chosen for them.

That’s a shame, but it’s the law in Florida. According to the Florida Chamber of Commerce, among the new voters who have registered since the last election statewide, 44 percent chose NPA, with 29 percent declaring as Republicans and 27 percent as Democrats.

In Miami-Dade, the numbers are even more heavily weighted toward no party affiliation: 53 percent of new voters are NPA; 30 percent are Democrats; and 17 percent are Republicans.

Short-term, NPAs should not sit out the Aug. 28 primary. There are plenty of non-partisan races in which they, too, should insist upon having a say, including races for circuit and county judge, the School Board and the County Commission.

Long-term, however, they are less likely to be courted by the candidates, less likely to hear their issues addressed satisfactorily and they have forfeited their opportunity to be a force in propelling primary candidates into the general election. By the time these voters get to the polls in November, it’s a done deal. NPAs’ numbers are surging, surpassing those of the two major parties in some Florida counties. They are a huge middle who end up choosing between candidates who sometimes represent the extremes of either party.

Legislative efforts to establish open primaries in Florida have failed. A political committee, Florida Fair and Open Primaries, has proposed two constitutional amendments that would open state primaries to all voters. And there’s a twist: The top two finishers would move to the general election — no matter their party affiliation. This system, which has its critics, is used in California, Louisiana, Washington and Nebraska.

It’s a debate worth having in Florida.

For now, getting registered to vote is the most urgent matter at hand. Residents can do it online or in person at the Election Department’s Doral headquarters or at Government Center in downtown Miami. Find details at iamelectionready.com. Don’t squander the opportunity to have a say.

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