Florida Court Says Write-in Candidates are Real Candidates

On October 29, a Florida state court ruled that a declared write-in candidate is just as much a candidate as someone who is listed on the ballot. Florida’s Constitution says that when the only candidates running for a partisan office are from the same party, and the winner of the primary will have no opposition whatsoever in the general election, then all voters (not just members of that party) may vote in that party’s primary for that particular office.

Since Florida’s major parties don’t like members of other parties voting in their primaries, they frequently recruit someone to file as a declared write-in candidate in the general election for that office. That method, described as a “loophole”, means that the special Constitutional provision doesn’t apply, since the winner of the primary will still have opposition in the general election from the write-in candidate.

In 2006, a lawsuit had been filed by a Florida voter, arguing that write-in candidates in general elections are so weak and insubstantial that they should be deemed not to exist. The case is Jacobson v Martin, Lake Co. Circuit Court, 2006-ca-1160. But the judge ruled that a write-in candidate is “opposition”, and said that a write-in candidate should not be treated as non-existent. And, in support of his conclusion, it should be noted that write-in candidates have been elected to state legislatures at general elections in 1989 (Virginia), 1990 (Rhode Island), 1994 (Kansas), 1998 (Tennessee), and 2006 (Massachusetts). Write-in candidates frequently win local office.


Florida Court Says Write-in Candidates are Real Candidates — 16 Comments

  1. of course. write-in candidates are real. this is the very best choice for any election because the voter has the ultimate choice. score one for the good guys.

  2. This provision has been in effect since 1998, and there is a history of it being circumvented by the recruitment of sham/phantom write-in candidates, who qualify and then are never heard from again. There have even been instances of a close relative of a party candidate qualifying as a write-in candidate.

    Looks like at least one Florida party would file suit against the blanket primary provision, since the federal courts have outlawed state-mandated blanket primaries.

    BTW: In Nevada, when all the candidates for an office are from the same party, they are all placed on the general election ballot.

  3. Even worse, you get horrible write-in candidates like San Diego Council Member Donna Frye, a 2004/ 2005 Democrat pretending to be an Independent [in a ‘non partisan’ race] for Mayor. Surfer Girl [occational wave runner married to board and shop legend Skip Frye] begged off running in the 2004 primary only to spend tons of money, effort, and emotions in a last minute Fall 2004 General Election WRITE IN.
    She got the most votes twice and still managed to lose three times!
    She also voted to shut down any one ELSE trying to go ‘write in’ —-but only after she was allowed!

  4. Mississippi allows write-in votes if some candidate running (who appears on the ballot) dies before the election. So Mississippi does print a blank line for people to cast write-in votes, but they aren’t counted except in case of death.

  5. Entrenched parties will habitually oppose write-in candidates unless they can be manipulated – votes are counted, etc. This is because a write-in candidate reminds voters that they too have the right to candidacy outside of any party apparatus. Ballot access restrictions are central to the scheme of denying voters free access to alternative candidates by other parties or by write-in. Oklahoma very clearly illustrates this scheme. The current ballot access initiative in Oklahoma strikes at the root of such partisan entrenchment – although it does not address the prohibition of write-in candidates in Oklahoma.

  6. Florida requires write-in candidates to file at the same time as candidates filing by petition or by paying a filing fee. If no write-in candidates filed, and there were only candidates from one party, closing the primary to party members would have the effect of denying other voters the right to participant in the election of that office.

    I imagine that even the system used in Florida could be challenged in the case of US respresentative and US senator, on the basis that the representative or senator is not chosen on the designated November election day. Louisiana’s election dates were challenged successfully simply because the representatives or senators were usually chosen before November, because most of the time there was no runoff.

  7. While I agree that Write-ins are inmportant, I think the fact that they are required to declare is crazy and it defeats the purpose of a write-in. In Rhode Island, anyone can be written-in a General Election. There is is no declaration required.

    Several years ago the RI Speaker of the House was embroiled in a scandal that emerged shortly before the election. A constituent in his district ran a write-in campaign against him and nearly won. Had that constituent been required to meet a declaration deadline, he would not have been able to run.

    That being said, Florida should do away with the declaration of write-ins, and then the Constitution can be interpreted to mean “no competition” since all offices will have a potential write-ins with no formal declaration.

  8. Looks like we need a write in candidate for Congress in Oklahoma, where erstwhile Democrat Dan Boren has found it necessary to denounce his party’s presidential candidate.

    He can choose to vote for whomever he choses. He can change parties if he wants. But to make this kind of public announcement is not necessary or acceptable.

  9. Does Oklahoma have a Blank spot on the ballot? a sudden death clause…
    If I write Chuck Baldwin in, can I sue the state?, I could take a picture of my ballot in the voting booth, as proof. When Oklahoma tallies the vote, and denies my ballot, they will be violating my rights.
    Borens in the HellFire club, the Elite love Oklahoma.

  10. What is wrong with having a write in candidate regardless of what party is represented? Florida 2014 is a perfect example. I don’t like Crist or Scott. Both are useless and out for the most they can personally gain from the office. I want to write in a candidate even though Dems and Repubs have decided I have to choose between tweedle dump and tweedle dummer.

  11. I am writing this on January 23, 2016. If the democratic party chooses Hillary Clinton as it’s nominee, I would prefer to not vote for her, and write in Bernie Sanders for president. Will this be possible in the state of Florida, on election day 2016?

  12. Will my write in vote for Bernie Sanders be legal and be counted when I cast my vote in November 2016?

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  14. In response, Leigh cited a recent Florida Supreme Court opinion, handed down in February, which held that write-in candidates count as legitimate opposition, even if they have no real chance of winning.

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