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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

GOP's new party registration rules could ice out some ambitious Tea Partiers



The head of a Tea Party coalition in Northwest Florida and the head of the Tea Party of Florida don’t often agree on much, but they both are miffed at Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida GOP.

When the Florida Legislature passed and Scott signed a law that bans candidates for public office from switching parties, they effectively iced out many Tea Party brethren and registered "independents" seeking to run next year in newly drawn districts, said Henry Kelley, the president of the Fort Walton Beach Tea Party and a potential candidate for a Republican House seat representing Crestview.

“I don’t like things that give the appearance of limiting people’s access to the ballot,’’ said Kelley, who is currently not registered with any party and therefore not subject to the ban. But if he had been registered with the Independent Party, the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, the Tea Party or any of the other alternative parties in Florida, he would be banned from running as a Republican or Democrat next year.

Under the law, any candidate who qualifies to run for office in 2012 in a partisan election by the June 8 deadline must have been registered with his or her party for last 365 days. Because qualifying ends June 8, 2012, the law closed the door on any candidate seeking office next year who hadn’t switched parties by the time the bill became law earlier this year.

“That violates my sense of equal protection under the law,’’ Kelley said, who added that it “gives the appearance of gaming the system.’’ More here.

[Last modified: Monday, September 19, 2011 7:42pm]


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