Tracie Davis bill cracks down on no-party ‘ghost candidates’
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 11/8/23-Sen. Tracie Davis, D-Jacksonville, talks about the recent shootings near Edward Waters University as the Senate debated CS/HB 7-C a bill providing grant funding to improve security for at-risk schools, churches, museums and community centers, Wednesday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. The Senate passed the House version of the bill and it now moves to the governor for approval. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

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The bill offers legal standing for anyone — including political parties — to challenge a candidate's qualifications for the ballot.

New legislation from a Jacksonville Democrat would make it tougher for fly-by-night candidates to close Primaries in August and affect results in November.

It would give political parties and other interested parties recourse to challenge candidates who changed their registrations just before the election.

SB 724, filed by Sen. Tracie Davis, would require candidates to have consistent statuses regarding political party registration for a year before the beginning of qualifying for a given Primary or General Election

The bill, which would take effect in July 2024 if it passes and is signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, would create Section 99.013 in the Florida Statutes, adding new verbiage on election qualification that would be in effect in 2026 and subsequent elections.

For candidates pursuing nominations of established political parties — Republicans and Democrats primarily — the language codifies that those candidates would have to have been in those parties for at least 365 days. Similarly, for candidates with no party affiliation (NPAs), they would have to have been unaligned with any party for a year before qualifying.

The bill offers legal standing for anyone — including political parties — to challenge a candidate’s qualifications for the ballot “based on a claim that a person seeking to qualify for nomination as a candidate of such political party or as a candidate with no party affiliation did not comply with this section.” A circuit court ultimately would be compelled to disqualify a noncompliant candidate from the ballot.

Davis acknowledges that her bill still allows no-party candidates to run for office, but they “just have to be a registered NPA one year prior to qualifying, same as Democrats and Republicans so it evens the playing field making same for all — which is already in state law.”

However, after “a few folks (were) challenged with no real outcome,” the Jacksonville Democrat believes her “bill attempts to give a person or a political party cause of action to actually remove the person from the ballot.”

“Even though there’s a law already in effect for NPA’s to be a NPA a year prior to qualifying, there’s apparently no teeth behind it so people are still doing it,” Davis said.

Mysterious no-party candidates have emerged to complicate races in recent years.

One such race was in 2020, when Democrat José Javier Rodriguez lost by 34 votes in Senate District 37 to Republican Ileana Garcia. The incumbent was hurt by a no-party candidate with the same last name appearing on the ballot and getting more than 6,000 votes.

In another 2020 race, a ghost candidate may have factored into Republican Jason Brodeur defeating Democrat Patricia Sigman. Brodeur got 50.3% of the vote in the Seminole County battle for a Senate seat, in a race where Jestine Iannotti got 2.1%, running with encouragement and active support from Republican operatives.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


4 comments

  • MH/Duuuval

    December 7, 2023 at 3:03 pm

    Well-intentioned, but won’t fly with a MAGA supermajority and a governor running for President.

  • Speed C.

    December 8, 2023 at 6:00 am

    I’m sure the GOP plant in my election was a registered Dem for more than 365 days. On the surface it sounds good if your a checkers player but we really need to focus on those playing chess.

  • Mike

    December 8, 2023 at 7:10 am

    The Democrat sheriff in St Lucie County put a ghost in the Republican primary in 2020. This candidate actually won the primary and then did zero as a candidate in the general. FDLE conducted a big investigation. No one was charged with anything. This practice, while clearly unethical, is apparently not illegal.

    • MH/Duuuval

      December 8, 2023 at 10:11 am

      Dee’s election police aren’t interested in election fraud unless the suspect is a former felon.

Comments are closed.


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