Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Romano: Who needs voters when Florida elections have fixers and frauds?

So there was a pretty incredible ruling by a judge in Jacksonville in June.

Presented with evidence that a legal loophole had been used specifically to keep 440,000 voters from casting ballots in a local race, the judge basically shrugged his shoulders.

The Legislature wants the loophole, and the state Supreme Court recently condoned the loophole. So, the judge pretty much said, it ain't the judiciary's problem.

No, I suppose it's Florida's problem.

And it's partly why our elections have more in common with a banana republic than an actual, you know, strong democracy.

The loophole is not new. It's been around almost from the moment Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment in 1998 that was supposed to give them a greater voice.

The amendment said if the only candidates for an office were from the same party, then the primary should be open to all voters. In other words, if there are only two Democrats in a race, then Republicans should have a say in that election.

Makes sense, right?

Except Florida's elite are used to choosing their own winners. So the idea of giving voters too much power sounded too WeThePeople-ish to the folks in Tallahassee.

This means they cooked up a scheme that allowed primaries to remain closed if a write-in candidate qualified for an election. Never mind that a write-in does not have to pay a fee or collect petitions like other candidates. Never mind that a write-in doesn't have to take a campaign seriously, and their name doesn't even show up on the ballot.

The Legislature considers a write-in to be a legit opponent and, incredibly, the state Supreme Court agreed a few months ago.

This means, every election, millions of voters around the state are purposefully shut out of primaries by largely bogus candidates. That's no exaggeration. If anything, it's understated.

Consider this:

In the 14 years before the 1998 constitutional amendment, there were a grand total of 24 write-in candidates for the state House and Senate. In the next 14 years, there were 201.

Now, do you suppose that was a coincidence, or a concerted effort to block voters from primaries?

Still not convinced?

Of those 201 write-in candidates, only five got more than 1 percent of the vote and 147 got 0.1 or less. Meanwhile, 22 actually got zero votes, which means they didn't even vote for themselves.

The closest a write-in has come in the past 20 years was a Daytona Beach lawyer who got 6.4 percent of the vote in 2004. Her opponent got 93.6 percent.

And this doesn't even count the voters shut out of countless local elections, such as the upcoming property appraiser's race in Pinellas County.

If you think this sounds bad from a voter suppression standpoint, consider it from an ideological point of view. This practice tends to favor the more extreme candidates in both parties. You see, if your primary opponent is more moderate, then you recruit a write-in to make sure no one from the opposite party has any say in the election.

Delightful, huh?

How the Supreme Court did not recognize this as a cynical circumvention of a constitutional amendment is completely baffling. And infuriating. And heartbreaking.

And, oh so Florida.

Romano: Who needs voters when Florida elections have fixers and frauds? 07/06/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 6, 2016 8:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays send down Chase Whitley, Andrew Kittredge; add Chih-Wei Hu, acitvate Alex Cobb

    Blogs

    After having to cover more than five innings following a short start by Austin Pruitt, the Rays shuffled their bullpen following Wednesday's game, sending down RHPs Chase Whitley and Andrew Kittredge,

    The Kittredge move was expected, as he was summoned to add depth to the pen Wednesday in advance of RHP Alex …

  2. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred moves closer to wanting a decision on Rays stadium

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred called Wednesday for urgency from Tampa Bay area government leaders to prioritize and move quicker on plans for a new Rays stadium.

    MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred talks with reporters at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017.
  3. Six home runs doom Rays in loss to Blue Jays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — A curve that didn't bounce was the difference Wednesday as the Rays lost 7-6 to the Blue Jays in front of 8,264, the smallest Tropicana field crowd since Sept. 5, 2006.

    Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria (11) greets center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) at the plate after his two run home run in the third inning of the game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017.
  4. Jones: Stop talking and start building a new Rays stadium

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It was good to see Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred at Tropicana Field on Wednesday, talking Rays baseball and the hope for a new stadium somewhere in Tampa Bay.

    Commissioner Rob Manfred is popular with the media on a visit to Tropicana Field.
  5. Ousted to political Siberia by Corcoran, Kathleen Peters sets sights on Pinellas Commission

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The perks of power in Tallahassee are a coveted chairmanship, a Capitol office in a prime location and a prominent seat on the House floor. Now Rep. Kathleen Peters has lost all three, but here's the twist: Her trip to "Siberia" might actually help her reach the next step on the Tampa Bay political …

    Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-South Pasadena, has been relegated to the back row in the State House chamber, moved to a fouth floor office and stripped of her job as chairwoman of a House subcommittee after a series of disagreements with House Speaker Richard Corcoran. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]