Monday, September 24, 2007

Lawsuit Targets Florida Elections Law Loophole

Lawsuit Targets State Elections Law Loophole

OCALA | Year after year, state Sen. Dave Aronberg fights what sometimes feels like a one-man battle. His target: an elections law loophole that, in his view, has disenfranchised more voters than hanging chads, butterfly ballots and ex-felon lists ever did.
At issue is a state Division of Elections advisory opinion that interprets a 1998 constitutional amendment. It says that party primaries are open to all voters when every candidate in a race is from the same party; however, primaries are closed if a write-in candidate runs in the general election.

A spring study by the Florida Senate Committee on Ethics and Elections showed that, through 2006, a write-in had filed to run and thus "closed" a primary in a state legislative race 38 times since the advisory opinion was issued.

The average margin of victory over those write-in candidates was 99.8 percent. Seven times, write-in candidates did not even vote for themselves.

Critics say this proves that many write-in candidates are just spoilers. They enter the race with no intention of campaigning, much less winning. They simply want to shut out non-party members from voting. Typically, the dominant party in a county uses the strategy when the other party cannot field a candidate with a chance of success.

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