These are “closed primary” races in which only members of the Republican or Democratic party can vote for their party’s candidates.

This newspaper editorially has opposed the creaky, outdated closed primary system, because it disenfranchises the fastest-growing share of the Florida electorate: voters registered NPA, for no party affiliation.

Closed primaries encourage extreme partisanship on both ends of the political spectrum and they are part of why there no longer appears to be a centrist middle in Florida politics.

This partly explains why, when November arrives, so many voters seem disillusioned with their choices.

A ballot initiative to open primaries to all voters failed in 2020 because it didn’t get enough votes. It won approval from 57%, short of the 60% required under Florida law.

But the closed primary system is all we have.

A terrible mindset took hold in Florida a long time ago that midsummer primaries were not very important because, so the thinking went, the stakes on a primary ballot were not that important.

Timing doesn’t help. For too many people, politics are an afterthought in the dog days of August. But now, voters can ask for a mail ballot and vote at home in air-conditioned comfort.

But those vote-by-mail numbers are troubling, too. A Republican strategy to force voters to ask for mail ballots more often is working. On Friday, Broward’s mail ballot requests for the 2024 election were at 165,337, and the Palm Beach total was 163,952, far below what they were in the last presidential election.

Despite such widespread public indifference, primary elections can be pivotal.

The most relevant current example is 2018, in a primary that dramatically changed the course of Florida.

A back-bench congressman by the name of Ron DeSantis, propelled almost entirely by the power of Donald Trump’s personal endorsement, easily won the Republican primary for governor. Trump provided DeSantis instant credibility with Republican voters, and that brought momentum and money.

DeSantis got 56.5% of the vote against Adam Putnam, the state agriculture commissioner, whose distant 36.5% quickly ended what had been a promising political career.

On the Democratic side, in a seven-candidate field, Andrew Gillum emerged as the nominee with 34% of the vote.

DeSantis edged Gillum in November by four-tenths of a percentage point. Six years later, Democrats are still debating whether the second-place finisher, Gwen Graham, with 31%, would have defeated DeSantis in November.

We’ll never know how a much larger turnout might have changed things.

Look at these numbers: In the most recent primary two years ago, the turnout in Broward was 26% — so three-quarters of the electorate didn’t bother. In Palm Beach County, it was 27%.

The statewide primary turnout two years ago was a miserable 28%. It was also 28% in 2020, and it was 28% in 2018.

People couldn’t be bothered. But at least Florida voters are consistent.

To not vote is to give more power to someone who does vote — someone who may share none of your values.

Political operatives and insiders love low-turnout elections where it’s easier to engineer the outcome, because they know who’s voting.

The unachievable ideal of, say, a 95% voter turnout in any election would scare the bejesus out of practically everyone in political power.

If only people would comprehend that and act on it, it could change things overnight.

The November election will, for sure, be the most important one of our lifetimes, and it starts in August, with a winnowing of the field of candidates that cements the final choices.

The last day to register to vote in the primary, or to change party affiliation, is Monday, July 22.

Steve Bousquet is Opinion Editor of the Sun Sentinel and a columnist in Tallahassee and Fort Lauderdale. Contact him at or (850) 567-2240 and follow him on X @stevebousquet.