Write-in candidates should not close Primary Elections


Write-in candidates should not close Primary Elections

Michael Gold, Editor in Chief

There is a reason that Florida election laws restrict voting to “party members only” in Primary Elections.  In layman’s terms, it’s to keep scoundrels from opposing political parties from selecting a ringer that they think they can defeat in the General Election.

In a textbook case of unintended consequences, the supervisors of elections in the state not only close Primary Elections when candidates of opposing parties qualify for the same office, but also take that chilling step when any Tom-Dick-or-Harry walks in at the last minute and files to run for that office as a “write in” candidate.

Genuine candidates who intend to hold elected office must qualify to have their names appear on the ballot.  There is a reason for that as well; to prevent those who are not serious about public service from corrupting an otherwise legitimate ballot that will be presented to voters on Election Day.

The term “qualifying” for election does not mean that candidates have to pass a test in the traditional sense — although I can’t say that would be a bad idea.  Instead, it means that they must complete a checklist of steps making them eligible to have their name printed on the actual ballot.

For example, they must have signed three or four pieces of paper that make certain required acknowledgements and complete a very superficial financial disclosure.  They must choose which political party, if any, they wish to be affiliated with on the ballot.  By the way, the political party has nothing to do with approving that candidate’s affiliation; although, that probably wouldn’t be a bad idea, either.

The BIG “test” for qualification, if you want to call it that, is the payment of a “qualifying fee” which could be several thousand dollars; and, there is one even if you chose to run with no party affiliation.  In order to provide all genuine candidates the opportunity to compete for election, even those who lack the money to pay the qualifying fee, an alternative to submit signed petitions from qualified voters is available.

There are contests for elected offices where party affiliation is not considered, such as judicial elections, municipal elections, school board, and various other authorities.  If you want to run for these seats, you qualify, your name appears on the ballot, and the elections office tallies the votes on Election Day.  Every registered voter within the jurisdiction gets to vote, either for or against, and the top vote getter wins the election.  Clean.  Simple.  Honest.

So, what about the “write in” candidate?

Someone who does not have the money to pay the qualifying fee and cannot collect the required number of petitions cannot have their name published on the ballot.  In what is most likely a throwback to the eighteenth century constitutionalists and probably the early days of Florida’s statehood, where those eligible to participate in local elections might have numbered in the hundreds, not hundreds of thousands, a now archaic method of electioneering provided for anyone who could otherwise legally hold office to announce themselves a candidate for that office without appearing on the ballot — a write in candidate.

Can you imagine a ballot being a blank piece of paper where every registered voter simply wrote down the name of whoever they thought would be a good choice for each office?  Talk about raw democracy that would be it.  Talk about raw chaos that would be it, also.

The reality of the twenty-first century is that, in many contests where a blank line is provided to accommodate a write-in candidate, some voter inevitably cannot resist the temptation to waste their vote by writing in the name of “Mickey Mouse” or some other fictional character.  It becomes a sort of “none of the above” statement of frustration by voters who wish someone else would have run.

It is virtually impossible in St Johns County today, and has never happened locally according to over 100-years of searchable election records, for a write in candidate to be elected to a county-wide office.  Non-partisan elections don’t have write in candidates.

Even though the write in candidate probably has some party affiliation, it plays no part in their race – however, it plays a game changing part for the other candidates being consideration by the voters.  The protection afforded to a political party by a closed Primary Election, protection that was originally intended by the legislature to stop one type of election fraud, has only spawned a different type of election fraud that is arguably worse.

Take a look for yourself at the paperwork on these thieves who robbed 78,211 St Johns County voters of their right to vote in the following local elections:

A write in candidate who paid nothing and did nothing, is treated with the same weight as a candidate who paid $2,000 in qualifying fees, or obtained 2,000 qualified voter petitions.  The write in candidate today is nothing more than a shill; a fraud who has no intention of putting on a campaign, does not report any campaign contributions, does not appear to speak at public forums, is not appearing in the media, has no experience or training to qualify them to hold office, nor do they truthfully have any idea that they are going to be elected.

Florida recognizes a “Universal Primary” — a race where all of the candidates in a race are running with the same party affiliation.  It does not matter if they are all Republicans or all Democrats, so long as the ticket does not contain candidates from mixed parties, the closed primary rule does not apply.  On Election Day, or earlier, all registered voters eligible to vote, can choose whichever candidate they feel most qualified — without consideration of the candidate’s, or the voter’s, party affiliation.  The election is held as if it were for a non-partisan office.

There are 89,455 registered Republican voters in St Johns County at the close of business this week.  There are 39,779 registered Democrats, and nearly as many registered with minor parties or without party affiliation — 38,904 to be exact.

In the case of local elections, up to and including the county level, I advocate we let all 168,138 voters do what they registered to do — VOTE!

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