New Port Richey Senator Dave Aronberg's (D-Greenacres) statewide fight against Florida 's controversial write-in candidate loophole came to Pasco County today, as Senator Aronberg announced the filing of a lawsuit to open the election for Pasco County Commission, District 1, to all voters.
With the assistance of pro bono attorney Robert Altman of New Port Richey, Senator Aronberg announced that "today's lawsuit will give 170,000 Democrats, Independents and minor party voters the right to decide who their County Commissioner will be."
In 1998, voters overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment that opens primary elections to all voters if all candidates in the race come from the same political party. But in 2000, the will of the voters was undermined by a State Division of Elections opinion, which said that write-in candidates close primary elections because they are considered a general election candidate, even though they pay no filing fee, collect no petition signatures and their names never appear on the ballot.
With the birth of the write-in loophole, politicians began to take full advantage of it. Candidates wanting to stack the deck to their favor recruit sham write-in "opponents" who have no intention of mounting a legitimate campaign. Because of the Division of Elections opinion, the primary is then closed, denying the right to vote to others.
In 2007, Senator Aronberg was able to pass an amendment that began to tighten the reins on write-in candidates by requiring them to live in the district they seek to represent. "The residency requirement was intended for cases like this one, where neither the candidacy nor the home address is real," said Senator Aronberg.
The lawsuit, filed in Pasco County Circuit Court, names John M. Taylor and Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley as Defendants. Taylor filed as a write-in candidate with the admitted intent of exploiting the write-in loophole to disenfranchise all non-Republicans from voting in the November election. The lawsuit alleges that Taylor lives outside of District 1 and thus is ineligible to run as a write-in candidate. Although Taylor claims to live in the district, he claims his homestead exemption on a home outside of the district and his occupational license lists his home as outside of the district. In fact, the lawsuit alleges that the home that Taylor claims as his residence is actually the residence of a couple unrelated to Taylor .
The Plaintiffs are Pasco County residents, Steve Byle, a Democrat from Hudson, and Deborah Lopez, a voter with no party affiliation from Zephyrhills. They seek Taylor 's disqualification as a write-in candidate, which will open up the election to them and all Pasco County voters.
"We are confident that this lawsuit will give thousands of Pasco residents the right to choose their County Commissioner , and hopefully deter future sham candidates from outside the district who attempt to manipulate elections," attorney Altman said.
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