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Palm Coast Friday, Jun. 15, 2012 8 years ago

OPINION: Are write-in candidates good for Flagler?

by: Jim O'Connell and Bob Hamby

The following two letters answer the question, "Are write-in candidates good for Flagler?"

NO: To all write-ins: Withdraw from August primary
By Florida law, in an election where only one political party is represented, the primary becomes an “open” primary where all voters are allowed to participate. This was the situation in both District 1 and District 5 in the Flagler County Board of County Commissioners races when I ran for office in 2004. District 1 had two Republicans running for office, and District 5 had two Democrats. Both races were competitive and hard-fought, and the open election was decided by voters from all political parties.

Unfortunately, this will not be the situation in some Flagler County races in 2012. A few citizens have chosen to enter their names in some races as write-in candidates. This requires little more than advising the supervisor of elections that they wish to be listed on the ballot as a candidate.

I am disappointed.

Using a write-in candidate for the purpose of closing the primary election to one party only is a wrong tactic.

To my knowledge, it has never been utilized against any candidate of any party in Flagler County. When it was used in the replacement of Florida Sen. Tony Hill, I was disappointed. In that instance, no Republican got to vote for their Florida Senate representative.

I suspect these write-in candidates know they have little or no possibility of being elected to the local office. But by using this legal, but immoral, tactic they have deliberately disenfranchised more than 40,000 Flagler County voters who are registered as Democrats, independents, or some other minor political party. 

While their actions may be legal, they are not ethical or fair. By their wholesale departure from the standard of doing what is right, 40,000 Flagler voters will be denied their right to vote.

I respectfully ask that those candidates reconsider and withdraw from the race.

Jim O’Connell, former chairman,
Flagler County Board of County Commissioners

YES: Republican primary is for Republicans
This year, some Flagler County citizens filed to run as write-in candidates for local offices. The motives and character of these brave citizens have been unfairly demonized and libeled. The criticism of these local citizens is that, because Florida is a closed primary state, only Republicans can now vote to nominate the Republican candidates in the August primaries.

The law wisely provides voters of a particular party the mechanism to make sure they get to vote for candidates of their own party without the distortions introduced by allowing competing party voters to improperly select their candidate.

I would like to remind everyone that the primary is for parties to select their best candidates who will oppose each other in November. When the Flagler County Democratic Party failed to qualify candidates in several countywide races, they failed in their obligation to qualify candidates from their party to seek these offices.

The Democratic Party still had the opportunity to qualify candidates to run in these races. These Flagler County citizens filing as write-in candidates were merely exercising their Constitutional rights and in no way denied voters the right to vote in a deciding election. The Flagler County Democratic Party did that by failing to offer a choice in the general election.

This process has been used by both parties across the state of Florida. The most recent example affecting Flagler County voters was by Democrats closing the ballot with a write-in candidate for the State Senate District 1 special primary Sept. 20, 2011, preventing Republicans from voting in the Democrat primary. The write-in candidate then withdrew, and the winner of the primary became the District 1 State Senator, with Republicans having no vote.

In states where open primaries are the norm, opposing parties mobilize to try to kill off the most qualified likely-to-win contender of the other party — often with disastrously effective results: Those folks routinely end up with poor candidates on both sides of the November general ballot. Open primaries in Florida can give similar results here (such as having an elected County Commission “surprised” at a $3 million budget shortfall because of falling property values, after years of falling property values).

Candidates and supporters wanting it both ways may be disappointed in having to run as Republicans or Democrats, but that’s the way it works here in Florida.

The Ronald Reagan Republican Assemblies of Florida was formed by Republican leaders who were concerned with the efforts of liberals to separate the Republican Party from the principles of the Reagan revolution.

The group has been libeled by many as behind this “immoral and unethical voter manipulation.” First of all, while we strongly support the actions of these brave citizens which result in Republicans choosing their candidate in the Republican primary, our organization took no action to facilitate these candidates qualifying for office.

Second, following Florida election law is not “immoral and unethical voter manipulation,” and I call on all of those making these accusations to apologize.

The Ronald Reagan Republican Assembly-Flagler aggressively supports Republican candidates who are endorsed by our membership as supporters of the conservative principles of Ronald Reagan. All members are voting delegates and have an equal voice in the selection of candidates. Endorsement Convention for statewide races will be June 23 and Flagler County Endorsement Convention for countywide offices will be June 25.

Bob Hamby, president,
Ronald Reagan Republican Assembly-Flagler


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