The general election on Tuesday to replace former state Rep. Frank Peterman is a costly abuse of election laws. Former St. Petersburg NAACP president Darryl Rouson already has won the real contest, held last month. What remains is an empty exercise between Rouson and a write-in candidate who never intended to compete.
This is the result of a game both parties play with the laws governing open primaries. No Republicans sought this heavily Democratic and heavily-African-American District 55 seat, so all voters should have been allowed to participate in last month's primary. But a woman with no political experience and a personal grudge against Rouson filed as a last-minute write-in, closing the primary so only Democrats could vote. The woman thought a closed primary would hurt Rouson's chances, but she was wrong.
What remains, then, is a phantom general election. Voters in 74 precincts spanning four counties will be asked to choose between Rouson and "write-in candidate." They must know the woman's name for the write-in vote to count, and the woman has conducted no campaign at all.
Lawmakers who refuse to close this loophole should have to answer for its indefensible costs. Not only will Tuesday's election cost taxpayers roughly $165,000, but it also extends by three weeks the lack of representation for District 55 residents. As Rouson awaits this "general election," he could have been voting in the Capitol on crucial budget issues affecting his district.
Voters are left with a duty on Tuesday to confirm their choice of Rouson, whose candidacy this newspaper recommended. But they should also demand that this loophole be closed.