When Historic City News reporters monitor the general meeting of the St Augustine City Commission on Monday evening, we will be watching with interest the outcome of a proposed resolution (2016-42) that urges Florida legislators to take measures to close a loophole in laws that allow a strawman candidate to close an otherwise open Primary Election.
Municipal elections, judicial elections, referendums and members elected to most local boards and authorities are non-partisan, including the City of St Augustine, so they are not impacted by the loophole one way or the other.
County elections, on the other hand, are partisan and have been seeded with insincere, write-in candidates for the sole purpose of closing the Primary Election to members of minor parties, independents and those voters registered without party affiliation.
The proposed resolution reads:
A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY OF ST. AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA, URGING THE LEGISLATURE TO REVIEW AND AMEND STATE LAWS TO LIMIT SPOILER CANDIDATES’ ABILITY TO CLOSE PRIMARY ELECTIONS IN THE STATE
WHEREAS, the State of Florida Constitution Article VI Section 5(b) provides for “open” primaries when all candidates for an office are members of the same political party; and
WHEREAS, an “open” primary has been defined as one in which any registered voter, regardless of party affiliation, may cast a ballot; and
WHEREAS, the State of Florida Constitution Article VI Section 5(b) states that: “If all candidates for an office have the same party affiliation and the winner will have no opposition in the general election, all qualified electors, regardless of party affiliation, may vote in the primary elections for that office;” and
WHEREAS, the Florida Constitution does not explicitly address the ability of a write-in candidate to “close” a primary election, thereby creating a loophole that nullifies the amendment’s purpose; and
WHEREAS, Chapter 99.092(1), Florida Statutes, provides each person seeking to qualify for nomination or election to any office, except a person seeking to qualify by the petition process pursuant to s.99.095 and except a person seeking to qualify as a write-in candidate, shall pay a qualifying fee, which shall consist of a filing fee and election assessment; and
WHEREAS, write-in candidates are only required to file paperwork with election officials and are not required to pay qualifying fees; and
WHEREAS, write-in candidates that run a sham race and manipulate the provisions of Florida election laws which are meant to broaden voter participation should be discouraged; and
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COMMISSION OF THE CITY OF ST. AUGUSTINE:
Section 1. The City Commission of the City of St. Augustine does hereby state its opposition to write-in candidates’ ability to close primary elections and urges the legislature to thoroughly evaluate the procedures used when declaring candidacy for an election to ensure that voters are not disenfranchised.
Section 2. The City Commission of the City of St. Augustine urges the legislature to pass legislation to make write-in candidates more accountable, for example by requiring them to at least collect voter signatures on petitions or pay a qualifying fee.
ADOPTED in Regular Session of the City Commission for the City of St.
Augustine, Florida this ____ day of _______ , 2016.