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Democratic plaintiffs sue to get Bernie Sanders disqualified from Florida primary

Plaintiffs note non-Democrats can’t even vote in the closed primary.

Two Florida Democrats sued independent Bernie Sanders, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, in an effort to disqualify him from the state’s March 17 primary.

Frank Bach and George Brown, both Democrats registered in Florida, argue state law precludes a candidate not registered as a Democrat in the Sunshine State from running in the primary.

“Defendant Sanders is clearly an Independent, and is clearly not a Democrat, by his own definitions,” the lawsuit alleges. “His current ‘day job’ is as a United States Senator and he has consistently, proudly asserted his service in that role as Independent.”

The pair is represented by former Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers, Bach’s wife, according to Politico.

The Sanders campaign waved off the legal action.


“We’re aware of the spurious complaint and it will not affect us,” said Sanders Communications Director Mike Casca.

“Bernie will be on the ballot in Florida.”

The lawsuit was filed in Florida’s 2nd Judicial Circuit, and builds its case on Florida statute.

Sanders has caucused with Senate Democrats since joining the chamber in 2007, and before that caucused with Democrats in the House. But he ran as an independent in Vermont for his Senate and House terms.

And the plaintiffs point to Federal Election Commission records showing Sanders is still running for Senate in 2024 as an independent.

Registered voters in Vermont do not register with a party.

But Bach and Brown contend that Sanders consistently resisting calls to declare himself a Democrat shows he cannot qualify as a candidate in a Florida Democratic primary.

The voters brought suit against Sanders, the Florida Democratic Party, the Democratic National Committee and Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee.

The Florida Democratic Party said the suit should not be taken seriously.

“The lawsuit is ridiculous. The Florida Democratic Party Executive Committee voted unanimously to place Senator Sanders on the Florida ballot,” Executive Director Juan Penalosa said. “Votes cast for the Senator are valid and must be counted.”

The primary results will determine how 219 pledged delegates from Florida vote at the Democratic National Convention. The state also has 29 super-delegates.

In Florida, the parties have discretion over who qualifies as a candidate in the state’s Presidential Preference Primary.

The state party in December submitted its list of qualified candidates for the Democratic Presidential Preference Party. That list includes several candidates who have since withdrawn from the race. Floridians who don’t register as Democrats can’t vote in the election.

But Bach and Brown argue Sanders should never have been included, and Lee never should have certified him as a candidate

“Florida law is a closed primary,” the suit states. “Those not registered as a member of a particular party are simply not allowed to vote in a primary for that party.”

The plaintiffs say nothing precludes Sanders from running for President in Florida as an independent but he should not be eligible for any Florida delegates in his pursuit of the Democratic nomination for President.

Therefore, they say Lee should not be allowed to count any votes cast for Sanders in the March 17 election, and the state party subsequently should not be allowed to award any delegates to Sanders.


Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at

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