Gaming the system?

Politics as usual

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The September 21st Fernandina Beach News-Leader had this article on page 3a, by Eric Gutierrez.

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Florida is a closed primary state, until 2000 you only vote the ticket of your registration or nonpartisan contest.  But in 1998 Floridians approved a constitutional amendment opening primaries to all voters, via Universal Primary Contest, if all of the candidates are from a single political party.  Thus in a primary if there in no opposition from a recognized party it is designated a Universal Primary Contest and all registered voters can vote.

Two years later, then-Secretary of State Katherine Harris issued an opinion that said the existence of a write-in candidate was enough to cause a primary to be closed.  It has been used to game the system ever since.

If you are a Republican or Democrat facing only opponents from you own party you  have to worry that voters from the other party will vote against you.  You can eliminate this by having a ally register as a write-in candidate, thus creating a closed primary situation.

In this case Justin M. Taylor faced two other Republicans primary candidates; Klynt A. Farmer and Joe Zimmerman and without Don Tanner opposition as a write-in it would have been a Universal Primary Contest open to all registered voters in the district.

Was Don Tanner someone who intended to run as a write-in in the general election, but has for some reason decided to withdraw, we will never know.  Was he an ally of one of the other candidates or just a loyal  Republican, we will never know.  Was he an ally of Justin Taylor, again we will never know, but the optics are not good for Mr. Taylor.

In a primary where the winning margin was 681 votes (4.4% of total vote) would the outcome have been different if it had been a Universal Primary Contest, likely.

It should be noted that this was the only County Commissioner race with a write-in candidate.

 

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