Sarasota News Leader

05/17/2013

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Sarasota News Leader May 17, 2013 Page 21 the president of Citizens for Sensible Growth in Sarasota County. What is it trying to do? Open Our Elections wants to make all countywide races nonpartisan. That includes campaigns for seats such as tax collector, supervisor of elections and even the board of county commissioners. OK, OK, but what does "nonpartisan" actually mean? Good question! If approved by Sarasota County voters, the ballot measure would bar candidates from identifying themselves as members of a particular party. So when you went to vote, you would not see that little "D" or "R" next to a candidate's name. Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent. Photo by Norman Schimmel Sure, but would that really stop the parto have a say in who their elected officials are ties from being involved? at some point in the process — whether that's No. As City of Sarasota voters have learned in the general election or in the primary. over the last couple months, just because a race is nonpartisan doesn't mean the parties But a loophole in state election rules (written aren't involved. They can still run get-out- under the leadership of former Secretary of the-vote operations on behalf of candidates, State Katherine Harris) currently allows writeand campaign fundraising would remain un- in candidates to close primaries that would otherwise be open. Write-in candidates are changed. not required to pay a filing fee or gather sigSo what's the big deal, then? natures, and their names do not appear on the The major goal is to empower all voters to be ballot. able to vote for someone in every race. Florida has what is known as a limited open primary system, which means that primary elections are closed to members of a particular party (e.g., only Democrats can vote in a Democratic primary), unless all the candidates in a given race belong to the same party. The basic concept is that all voters should have the right Both Democratic and Republican parties exploit this loophole by encouraging fake writein candidacies. Last year, Vickie Brill, the daughter of a GOP fundraiser, filed as a writein candidate for supervisor of elections. Even though she immediately acknowledged she wasn't actually running for office, the move closed the supervisor of elections primary

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