70-year-old ballot order law challenged by Democrats

PHOTO: Person filling out a ballot, Photo Date: August 15, 2016
PHOTO: Person filling out a ballot, Photo Date: August 15, 2016(KMVT)
Published: Jul. 15, 2019 at 4:38 PM EDT
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By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service

July 15, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- Democrats are taking the state’s election system to federal court.

They’re challenging a law that requires candidates belonging to the party of the current governor to be listed first on the ballot.

20-year Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho, who is testifying in the case, said the ballot order has an effect on results.

“The individual who's listed first gains an advantage,” said Sancho.

The Primacy Effect as it’s know, is at the center of the lawsuit filed by Democrats.

They allege 20 years of Republican-led tickets have cost them multiple tight races.

“They're saying that we can wipe out this permanent benefit, which one party seems to be getting in the modern era,” said Sancho.

Democrats’ conducted a study in 2017.

It showed candidates listed first in a race get on average a 5% boost.

"And I think they were shocked when they found the results and that spurred them to action,” said Sancho.

While Democrats are the ones challenging the law, it was a Democratic controlled Legislature that passed the law back in the 1950’s.

“Because in the 1950's the Democrats won all the elections. So they changed the election to gain an advantage,” said Sancho.

During the hearing Democrats who testified were asked why the party has not filed suit in Pennsylvania, which has the same ballot order law.

The response was that Democrats didn’t have a vested interest in challenging the law in Pennsylvania because the current Governor is a Democrat.

However, Democrats want the judge to order a county by county rotation in Florida, where Democrats would be listed first in half of the state’s 67 counties and Republicans would be first in the other half.

The order would rotate each year.

“So that one party is not permanently given a numerical advantage at the polls every year,” said Sancho.

The hearing is scheduled to continue through Thursday.

The judge could rule to keep the law, order the county by county rotation or direct the legislature to come up with its own solution.