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Guest Column: Yes, those without party affiliation can vote in the Aug. 18 Primary

By Staff | Jul 8, 2020

“NPA” may sound like it could be an alien from another planet, or maybe a government agency, but it actually stands for “No Party Affiliation,” a term for those voters who choose not to register with a major political party. (Note: Florida has an Independent Party, so the term “independent” is not used here as it is in other states – although NPAs are actually, yes, independent.) In Lee County, voters registering as neither Republican nor Democrat number almost 140,000, second to the 198,000 registered as Republicans and ahead of 128,000 Democrats. Many NPAs choose not to register with a party either because they do not like what the political parties represent, or they vote based entirely on certain issues, or because they are not into politics; as a result, many sit out the primaries and vote in the general election for candidates selected by others.

Because Florida is a “closed” primary state, meaning you can vote only in a primary held by your party, many registered NPAs think they cannot vote at all in the upcoming Aug. 18 primary. In fact, if you are an NPA, there are two ways you can: You can vote in nonpartisan elections (if you reside in Cape Coral, Bonita Springs, Fort Myers), or temporarily change your registration to a party holding a partisan primary, (such as the countywide race for the Board of County Commissioners).

This election season, four of the eight seats on the Cape Coral City Council are up for a vote. With Jessica Cosden, the only incumbent, running for reelection, voters will have to carefully evaluate and compare the candidates for their experience and decision-making capability. Running the eighth largest city in Florida is a big job and takes vision, commitment and a passion to do right for its citizens, so getting good, qualified and experienced people in office is crucial.

That they can vote in the upcoming primary is certainly good news for NPA voters in Cape Coral and Women For a Better Lee encourages everyone to cast a ballot in the Aug. 18 primary, either by mail or in person – no matter their political leaning.

On the county level, however, it’s a different story and not very good news. NPAs cannot vote in critically important primaries to nominate candidates for the County Commission, the state legislature, or our Congressional seat in the U.S. Congress because these are partisan contests. Voting in these primaries is restricted to those who are registered in the Democrat or Republican Party by July 19, 2020, 29 days before the Aug. 18 primary.

Fortunately, you still have time to change your registration to vote in a partisan primary: with a couple of clicks on the website of the Supervisor of Elections (www.lee.vote; click on “voter resources”) or by calling the County Elections office (239-533-8683), you can change your registration to the party in whose primary you wish to vote. Then, following the primaries, you can switch your party affiliation back by taking the same easy steps and be an NPA again – and, of course, vote in the November election for candidates of your choice.

Is this not crazy? Confusing? Indeed, but it is what it is. Voting is the most important and solemn duty of a citizen and making it difficult or complicated flies in the face of the very premise of our Constitution. In Lee County, voting may take more time, require more action, and demand more commitment than elsewhere – but since our choices for political office have such an incredible impact on our daily lives, isn’t the extra effort worth it?

– Charlotte Newton, Steering Committee, Women For a Better Lee