Friday, October 19, 2018
Politics

Florida Supreme Court gives boost to write-in candidates

Write-in candidates rarely get more than a handful of votes and are often suspected of being part of political shenanigans.

But the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday gave a boost to write-ins when it ruled that a state election law is unconstitutional.

The ruling stemmed from a 2014 race for a Broward County Commission seat. Tyron Francois submitted qualifying papers as a write-in candidate for the race, which otherwise included only Democratic candidates. Also, of note, Francois did not live within the district boundaries.

While Francois stood little chance of winning, his candidacy was important because it would "close" the Democratic primary, meaning that only Democratic voters could cast primary ballots. Voters in 1998 approved a constitutional amendment that opens primaries to all voters if every candidate is from the same party.

Jennifer Brinkmann, a Republican voter in the district, filed a legal challenge to Francois' candidacy based on a state law that said write-ins have to live within the district boundaries at the time of qualifying. A circuit judge agreed with Brinkmann, prompting appeals.

But the Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a 4th District Court of Appeal ruling that said the state law at issue in the Francois case is unconstitutional. That is because the law places a different standard on write-in candidates than other candidates, who are not required to live in the districts at the time of qualifying. Those candidates are required to live in the districts at the time of election.

"This (Supreme) Court has long-instructed that statutes may not impose qualification requirements for public office over and above those set forth in the Florida Constitution… As such, if any provision of the Florida Constitution provides qualifications for an office of county commissioner, then the Legislature is prohibited from imposing additional qualifications,'' said the opinion, written by Justice James E.C. Perry and joined fully by Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince. Justices Charles Canady and Ricky Polston agreed with the outcome but did not sign onto the opinion.

In the case, Brinkmann also argued that write-in candidates should not be considered "opposition" that would trigger closing primaries. The Supreme Court also rejected that argument.

Write-in candidates, however, have often been suspected of taking part in ploys to close primaries and help other candidates. As a hypothetical example, a conservative Republican and a moderate Republican could be in a two-candidate race. It might benefit the conservative to have a closed primary that would only involve ballots cast by GOP voters, rather than opening up the primary to all voters.

Brinkmann's attorneys touched on such scenarios in a brief filed in the Supreme Court. The brief said the 1998 constitutional amendment about open primaries "would be rendered meaningless if the primary election remained closed as a result of the mere presence of a write-in candidate who has the same party affiliation as all of the other candidates. Any time a candidate desired a closed primary, that candidate would only need to recruit a fellow party member to act as a write-in candidate, thereby closing the primary to voters outside the party."

Comments
Editorial: Those who fail to cast ballots in Hillsborough are running out of excuses

Editorial: Those who fail to cast ballots in Hillsborough are running out of excuses

You wouldn't skip a trip to the gas pump, would you?Then don't miss the chance to cast your general election ballot, either, when Hillsborough County opens its many early voting sites Monday morning for a two-week engagement.If you do your homework a...
Published: 10/19/18
Hernando commissioners face Democratic challengers, questions about contributions

Hernando commissioners face Democratic challengers, questions about contributions

Early voting begins Oct. 24.
Published: 10/19/18
Three weeks before election, tax foes organize to fight transportation measure

Three weeks before election, tax foes organize to fight transportation measure

TAMPA — No Tax for Tracks is putting the band back together.The group that campaigned against the failed 2010 transit referendum in Hillsborough has regrouped to fight a proposed penny-on-the-dollar sales tax hike for road, bus and transit projects. ...
Published: 10/19/18
Carlton: How a shortage of candor could tilt a commission race (Bribery scandal? What bribery scandal?)

Carlton: How a shortage of candor could tilt a commission race (Bribery scandal? What bribery scandal?)

In one of the most interesting local races around, first-time candidate Mariella Smith, a Democrat, looks like she’s got a longtime politician on the ropes.But forget, for a minute, that Smith’s opponent is veteran Republican Hillsborough County Comm...
Published: 10/19/18
Some of these Florida amendments aren’t worth your time

Some of these Florida amendments aren’t worth your time

For such a sacred document, we seem to give little thought to scribbling on, erasing and haphazardly expanding the Florida Constitution.Since a revised version was established in 1968, Florida voters have been asked to consider more than 175 differen...
Published: 10/18/18
Florida House District 67 candidates agree education is a priority, but disagree on what to do about it

Florida House District 67 candidates agree education is a priority, but disagree on what to do about it

Democrat Dawn Douglas says charter schools pull money from public education, while incumbent Republican Chris Latvala backed bill that sent construction money to charters.
Published: 10/18/18
In House 36, it's youthful incumbent vs. life-experienced activist

In House 36, it's youthful incumbent vs. life-experienced activist

Rep. Amber Mariano, R-Hudson, faces her first re-election test since her upset win two years ago.
Published: 10/18/18
Nevada’s famous pimp expected to win election despite death

Nevada’s famous pimp expected to win election despite death

LAS VEGAS — Nevada’s most famous pimp tried to bring the state’s legal brothel industry into the mainstream by mingling with celebrities, showcasing his business on HBO and staging outlandish publicity stunts.Dennis Hof’s fame made him an attention-g...
Published: 10/17/18
Daniel Ruth: For Hillsborough voters, transportation tax is leap of faith they can ponder while stuck in trafffic

Daniel Ruth: For Hillsborough voters, transportation tax is leap of faith they can ponder while stuck in trafffic

Perhaps one way to approach the ongoing community-wide debate over imposing a one-cent sales tax to pay for a variety of transportation needs is to think of all this dickering as a sort of family Thanksgiving dinner that has suddenly turned into a Th...
Published: 10/17/18
Approach to charter schools separates Toledo, Bellanti in state House 60 race

Approach to charter schools separates Toledo, Bellanti in state House 60 race

TAMPA — Republican state Rep. Jackie Toledo won her first term by 14 percentage points, a lopsided victory that shows how the district she represents favors a Republican.Two years later, Toledo has drawn a challenge from Democrat Debra Bellant...
Published: 10/17/18