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OPINION REPUBLICANS HARSH IN OPPOSING FAIR ELECTIONS EDITORIAL Quite a few counties in Florida — and Sarasota is among them — are dominated by Republican local officeholders, despite Republicans being a minority of registered voters in those counties. That is because Florida historically has been a "closed primary" state, meaning only Democrats vote in Democratic primaries and only Republicans vote in Republican primaries ... and Independents (what we refer to in Florida as No Party Affiliation, or NPA) are essentially disenfranchised. Should one party not field a candidate in a general election, then that party's voters and NPAs effectively have no voice in the election of that officeholder, who wins de facto after surviving his or her party primary. out of primary elections, a citizens initiative passed in 1998, amending the state constitution to allow the opening of a primary when only one party is fielding candidates in the general election. Unfortunately, it was left to the Legislature to codify this change and, like the proverbial rats being in charge of the cheese inventory, the Republican-dominated Legislature carefully inserted a loophole that undid the constitutional amendment: If a write-in candidate was qualified (and it should be pointed out that "qualify" is a very loosely defined term here, since we all can "qualify" as human beings almost as easily as a write-in candidate can "qualify" for an election), then the primary would remain closed to all but registered voters of that party. Admittedly, the loophole has been employed With more new residents of Florida relocating by Democrats in counties where they have a from states where Independents are not shut strong majority, but that was more a defen-

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