Why You Might Not Be Able to Vote in Florida’s Presidential Primary

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As the deadline to register with a political party approaches, thousands of Florida residents may not have the chance to choose a presidential candidate in March.

Nearly 36,000 voters in Alachua County will not be able to vote in the March primary elections unless they register with a major party by Feb. 16, said Pam Carpenter, the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections.

Because Florida has a closed primary system, voters who do not register as either a Republican or Democrat by the February deadline are barred from voting on a presidential nominee.

If voters aren’t registered with either party — or aren’t registered at all — they won’t get to vote in the primaries, Carpenter said. If voters register with a party, they can’t vote in the other party’s primary.

“That means you must be a member of the same party as the candidate which you wish to vote for,” Carpenter said.

Once the general election arrives on Nov. 8, voters can cross party lines.

Carpenter said while some voters willingly stray from the major parties, others may not be aware of the state’s closed primary policy in effect in Florida and 12 other states.

Voters can change their party affiliation by filling out and signing an application, a process that takes a few minutes. This can be done online or in person at the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections office.

Paige Butz, a 21-year-old University of Florida student, said registering with a specific party allows voters who feel strongly about a particular candidate to influence their nomination.

Butz, a registered Republican, said she is aware Florida has a closed primary.

“It’s one of those things you learn about in seventh grade and forget,” Butz said.

About Martin Vassolo

Martin is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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