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State Attorney Calls Florida's Write-In Loophole a Scam

Florida’s constitution currently provides for closed primaries: Elections in which votes for primary candidates can only be cast by voters within their respective parties. (Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg)
Florida’s constitution currently provides for closed primaries: Elections in which votes for primary candidates can only be cast by voters within their respective parties. (Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg)
January 15, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida's Constitution Revision Commission could give voters a chance to end the practice of allowing write-in candidates to close a primary during an election. Some argue the write-in provision amounts to fraud that can be exploited by a candidate.

Twenty years ago, voters decided that when only Republicans or only Democrats run for an office, everybody should be allowed to vote in the primary in that race. But Florida's Division of Elections determined write-in candidates without a party are real contenders, which allows them to close the open primary.

Speaking on The Rotunda podcast, Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg said the practice is used to disenfranchise voters.

"The write-in candidates are used to manipulate the system to prevent people from voting. It's a scam,” Aronberg said. "It's something that the party bosses and the political consultants employ to limit the number of voters in every election."

Sometimes, a lobbyist, a close friend or a family member of a candidate will offer themselves as a write-in, just to keep non-party members from voting in the primary.

Aronberg said he hopes the commission will let voters decide to ditch the write-in loophole. He is advocating for an amendment to the constitution that would let all voters participate in a primary if there is no other general election opposition or if the only opposition comes from write-in candidates.

"A write-in candidate doesn't fill out anything more than a piece of paper to get on the ballot,” he said. "There is no fee, there are no petition requirements. Write-in candidates rarely get any votes, they've never won, and they are really just used to close out primaries, to thwart the will of the voters. "

Aronberg said the effort to close the loophole requires another amendment to the constitution because both Democrats and Republicans benefit from the ability to close a primary.

The commission also is considering a separate amendment that would open the state's primaries to a system in which voters, regardless of party, can cast ballots for candidates, regardless of affiliation. If a proposal successfully passes the commission, it will then need support from 60 percent of voters at the polls.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - FL