Brief Filed in Defense of Closed Primaries in Florida

On July 10, the attorney for a local Florida elections office filed this brief, in defense of Florida law that requires closed primaries (unless a political party chooses to open its primary). The case is LaCasa v Townsley, southern district, U.S. District Court, 12-22432-civ.

Plaintiffs in this case are registered voters who are not Democrats. They are seeking to vote in the Democratic primary for Miami-Dade County State Attorney, a partisan post. They argue that they should be allowed to vote in the Democratic primary for that office, because the only candidates who filed to be on any party’s primary ballot for that office are two Democrats (and there are no independent candidates), so in effect whoever wins the Democratic primary wins the election. But, in this particular election, there are two write-in candidates for that position in the general election, and at least one of them is a Republican.

The Florida Constitution says when only candidates from a single party are running, then all voters may vote in that party’s primary for that office. The plaintiffs say this provision should apply to this year’s primary for that office because the write-in candidates in the general election are “sham” candidates, who filed merely at someone’s request, so as to keep the Democratic primary for that office closed to only Democratic voters. The Dade County brief, defending the closed primary, points out that write-in candidates do sometimes win, and cites the example of U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski in the November 2010 election.

11 comments

  1. Demo Rep · · Reply

    P.R. and nonpartisan App.V.

    NO evil lunatic super dangerous primaries – rigged or un-rigged.

  2. If I read this right, the plaintiffs are right but for a different reason. “The Florida Constitution says when only candidates from a single party are running, then all voters may vote in that party’s primary for that office.” So the fact that in the General there are write-ins should have no affect on how the Primary is run. So it should be open to all as stated in their Constitution.

  3. Demo Rep · · Reply

    Ballot access stuff has to be put in Constitutions for the same reason as having Elector definitions and terms of office and what powers each officer has in such Constitutions

    — to prevent the EVIL robot party hacks from their EVIL nonstop mere statutory ballot access machinations.

  4. Demo Rep · · Reply

    Ballot access stuff has to be put in Constitutions for the same reason as having Elector definitions and terms of office and what powers each officer has in such Constitutions

    — to prevent the EVIL robot party hacks from their EVIL nonstop mere statutory ballot access machinations.

    Too many EVIL New Age gerrymander control freak MONSTERS in ALL New Age regimes.

  5. Richard Winger · · Reply

    #2, one or both of the write-in candidates is a Republican.

  6. Jim Riley · · Reply

    This wouldn’t happen under Top 2 Open Primary

  7. #5 – Does it matter what party a general election write-in is, to a parties patisan primary?

  8. #5 – It took awhile but I now understand. So what would happen if all the write-ins were independents? Or some were minor parties?

  9. Jim Riley · · Reply

    #8 In Florida, a “write-in candidate” means a candidate who doesn’t pay the filing fee or a petition. All candidates, whether for party nomination or independent file at the same time, and are subject to campaign reporting laws.

    Florida puts a write-in space on the ballot, only if there is a write-in candidate. Further it doesn’t put uncontested races on the ballot, including the general election ballot.

    If you look at the congressional races in the House Clerk’s election results,

    http://clerk.house.gov/member_info/election.aspx

    it is not too uncommon for the results of a Florida election to have a footnote (1). Not only weren’t the votes counted, the uncontested race was not even printed on the ballot.

    A voter couldn’t vote for a write-in candidate; nor Donald Duck, or None of the Above. A voter could not even skip the race and refuse to vote for Unopposed Incumbent.

    But before 1998, there were a few races that had the elected candidate with tens of thousands of votes, and write-in a handful. In more recent times, the write-ins have a name, but I suspect this is just more careful reporting. That is, a contest with a write-in candidate was considered to be contested.

    Article VI, Section 5(b) was added to state constitution in 1998. Nowhere else is a “primary” mentioned. It just blurts out if there is an uncontested general election, you have to let everyone vote in the primary.

    Since there is no corresponding provision in State law, it has been up to the Secretary of State to apply and interpret the constitution, and ever since 2000 has been interpreted to mean that write-in candidates are contesting the election.

  10. #9 – Could that section be a transcription error. In NY, when we converted from mechanical lever to optical scanners, the state never properly updated the election laws. Many sections can only work with the old lever machines.

    Other probles arise from using two different vendor’s scanners and different ballot formats, New York City goes left to right and uses many languages but the rest of the state goes top to bottom with fewer languages.

    New York City also has different campaign finance laws then the state.

  11. Jim Riley · · Reply

    #10 I did a little more looking. Florida requires a constitutional revision commission every 20 years. The last was in 1998. They ended up proposing 13 revisions. Revision 11 bundled several changes related to elections.

    ==================================================
    (1) Equalizes ballot access requirements for all major and minor party and independent candidates.

    (2) Allows all voters to participate in primary elections when all candidates belong to the same party and will have no opposition in the general election.

    (3) Provides that when candidates for statewide public office agree to limit campaign expenditures, they qualify for limited public funding.

    (4) Provides for non-partisan school board elections.

    (5) Allows candidates for Governor to run in a primary without a Lieutenant Governor candidate.

    (6) Corrects the voting age from 21 to 18.

    =====================================================

    Looking at the text of the Revision it appears that they made the minimal changes, utilizing existing sections.

    There may have been substantive discussion of some of the provisions – for example the one that eliminated governor and lieutenant governor running as a ticket in the primary. Campaign spending limits sound like a good idea.

    The 18 YO vote was not really a “correction”. It was simply obsolete after the 26th Amendment. The constitution also required 1 year residence in the state, and 6 in a county in order to be a registered voter. I’m sure that violated equal protection.

    #1 was implemented by making it expensive for all candidates to run.

    A curiosity is that the constitution restricts ordinary amendments to a single issue. When the redistricting amendments were initially being drafted, the idea was to have an independent redistricting commission, and include the standards for drawing districts – but that was considered to be having two separate issues in one initiative. So the proposals that were proposed and approved provided for the criteria to be used in drawing districts, but left the actual drawing with the legislature (two amendments were proposed and approved. One dealt with legislative districts and the other with congressional districts).

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