Two backers of an unsuccessful attempt to close the "write-in loophole" in Florida election laws through a constitutional amendment are trying a different tactic – filing ethics complaints against write-in candidates whose filing disenfranchises voters.
The targets of the complaints include two Tampa state House candidates whose filing means Republicans and no-party voters won't be allowed to vote on their representatives in Districts 61 and 62.
The write-in candidates are Valion Joyce, a 20-year-old Florida State University student from Tampa, and Jose Vazquez, a frequent, unsuccessful Democratic candidate for local elective offices.
Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg, a Democrat, and Sherry Plymale, a Republican Party activist and former state education official, filed the complaints against eight write-in candidates involved in four Republican and four Democratic primaries, including Joyce and Vazquez.
Plymale was a member of the state Constitutional Revision Commission, and unsuccessfully proposed an amendment to go on the November ballot to close the controversial write-in loophole.
In the complaints, they contend that the financial disclosure forms filed by the candidates are false.
All Florida election candidates are required to file forms disclosing their personal finances, under oath. Penalties for falsifying the disclosure can include fines and disqualification from the race.
Joyce is running in House District 61, being vacated by Rep. Sean Shaw, a Democrat who's running for attorney general. Four Democrats have qualified for the ballot there – Sharon Carter, Norman Harris, Dianne "Ms. Dee" Hart and Karen Skyers.
Vazquez is running in House District 62 for the seat being vacated by Rep. Janet Cruz, a Democrat who's running for state Senate. Democrats Mike Alvarez, Chris Cano and Susan Valdes have qualified for the ballot.
Both districts are strongly Democratic-leaning.
Both Valion and Vazquez reported zero assets, liabilities and income on their disclosure forms, and insisted in interviews that's accurate.
Joyce, a computer engineering student, said he doesn't own a home, has no student loans and that his car is in his mother's name. He said he pays tuition with grants but doesn't consider that income, and that he has a phone and computer equipment, but didn't pay for them, so he doesn't consider them his own household goods.
Vazquez has reported owning vehicles when he ran for office previously but said they don't exceed the $1,000 threshold for reportable assets. He acknowledged he receives Social Security income, which he didn't report, and that he owes debts for child support, but didn't think that qualified as a liability.
If only members of one party are running in an election, so the primary will decide the race, the primary is open to all voters. But if any other candidate files, including a write-in, the primary is "closed," meaning only those registered to the party can vote, even though write-ins don't pay filing fees and don't appear on the ballot.
It's common for candidates who believe they'll have an advantage in a closed primary to encourage a political ally or friend to file as a write-in.
Both Valion and Vazquez denied that anyone asked them to run to keep the primaries closed.
"If somebody's paying me, I want to where the money is," Vazquez said.