Can Independents Vote In The Florida Primary?

by Lauren Holter

The Florida primary is one of the most important taking place Tuesday, as the state has more delegates up for grabs for both Democratic and Republican candidates than Missouri, Illinois, North Carolina, and Ohio. Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich will compete for 99 total delegates, and Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will battle for 246. As the Sunshine State prepares for the big day, voters who aren't registered as a Republican or Democrat might be wondering if independents can vote in the Florida primary.

Unfortunately for the large group of people who don't officially affiliate with either political party, Florida holds closed primaries, meaning voters have to be registered as a Republican or Democrat in order to participate in one of the primaries. It also doesn't help that the deadline to register with a party was Feb. 16, so independent voters can't choose a party at the last minute in order to vote Tuesday.

Independents now make up 39 percent of voters nationwide, and the group is growing faster than either the Democratic or Republican parties in Florida, with 27 percent of Florida voters identifying as independent. That's a rather large portion of voters who don't get to cast a vote in a presidential primary.

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Florida's primary election is especially vital for the GOP, as the future of Marco Rubio's campaign is largely dependent on how he performs in his home state. Rubio has spent the last week campaigning tirelessly across the state, despite the fact that Trump still leads in polls with 40 percent of support compared to Rubio's 26 percent, according to CNN's recent averages. It's a winner-take-all state for Republicans, so whichever candidate wins a majority of the vote statewide, he will be awarded all 99 delegates, making it an even more brutal loss for Rubio if Trump takes it. Rubio might have benefited from independent Floridians voting, but America will never know, and only registered Republicans will decide his political fate.

As with all Democratic primaries in 2016, Florida's 246 blue delegates will be awarded to Clinton and Sanders proportionately based on how much of the vote they each receive. If Florida follows in the footsteps of every other primary and caucus thus far, each Democrat will win some delegates in the Sunshine State — the real question is who will get the most.