by Robert “Hutch” Hutchison, Alachua County Commissioner
You hate the political parties. The Democrats and their slippery super-delegates. The Republicans whose candidates attract all the haters. The Libertarians because their ideas don’t pan out in modern society. The Greens for their narrowly focused idealism. Etc.
So your voter registration lists you as a “No Party Affiliate” (NPA), because you are independent and wish to vote your conscience. In Alachua County, there are around 35,000 registered voters (out of a total of 164,000) who agree with you.
Being unaffiliated with any party is the perfect way to be registered if you don’t care about local environmental protection, or about LGBTQ issues, or about racial disparities and social and economic justice in our community, or decisions being made for how to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on law enforcement, ambulances, children’s services, roads and transit services, humane treatment of animals, or a myriad of other local issues.
Those who don’t care about these issues don’t vote in local elections, because it is at the county commission level where many of these decisions take place. In Alachua County, in most election seasons including this one, all of the candidates for county commission are registered as Democrats. This means the decision about who will represent you on these and many other important issues is made during the Democratic primary.
Florida is a “closed primary” state, which was the method chosen by progressive reformers years ago to remove the decision-making about candidates from party bosses. We don’t have caucuses or super-delegates in our elections for local or state offices in Florida because we don’t want to give the decision-making over to small groups of insiders.
People whose voter card doesn’t list their primary preference as Democratic simply have no say in how our community progresses. They can’t vote for the constitutional offices (Sheriff, Elections Supervisor, Property Appraiser, Tax Collector, and Clerk of the Court). They can vote in the non-partisan School Board and Judge races.
When you change your registration to Democratic or Republican, or Libertarian, or Green, or Socialist, or Whig, or Bull Moose Party (yes, these are all choices), you are not “joining” these parties. You are simply indicating that if there is a primary, you wish to vote in the primary of that party to select a candidate to move on to the general election, where everybody can then vote regardless of party affiliation. If you actually want to “join” a major party, you can run for one of the seats on the local Democratic or Republican Executive Committee, and your name will appear on a ballot in your voter precinct during the primary election (most, but not all seats, are not contested, and there’s plenty of vacancies).
What makes the upcoming Alachua County Commission election so interesting is that there are two incumbents — Mike Byerly and Robert Hutchinson (the author) — who have strong progressive credentials. Their challengers are Kevin Thorpe and Larry McDaniel, who are registered as Democrats but are receiving much of their funding from Republicans, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Plum Creek corporation.
The challengers have calculated that if they can motivate 3000 Republicans to switch their voter registration to Democrat for the upcoming primary in August, then they win. That is, unless 3,000 NPAs can be convinced to also register as Democrat to counteract this right-wing stealth move.
Wouldn’t it be tragic if the thousands of NPAs, many of whom are Bernie supporters because they are down on the corporate cronyism of the national Democratic Party, allow the corporate acquisition of our local county commission seats by refusing to participate in local primary elections, where all the important decisions are made?
The easiest way to change your party registration is to go online to www.VoteAlachua.com and print out a form which you can mail back. The public libraries will also register you and turn in your paperwork (saving you the postage stamp and envelope, whatever they are). Or you can stop by the Supervisor of Elections office at 515 North Main Street.
August 1st is the deadline for a registration change that will allow you to participate in the all-important August 30th primary election. Don’t let anger at national party politics, or ignorance about local election rules, get in the way of your full participation in our community’s governance. Vote as if our future depends on it — because it does.