The Florida State Senate is considering the bill, SB 830, which would effectively prevent spoiler candidates from running against their more serious counterparts. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Tina Polsky, D-29.
It was filed Jan. 26 and has been referred to several Senate committees since, including Ethics and Election, Judiciary, and Rules on Feb. 4. It is set to be debated on the Senate floor imminently.
The same bill, HB 457, was also filed in Florida’s House of Representatives by Reps. Kristen Arrington of District 43, and Dan Daley of District 97, both Democrats.
The legislation calls for individuals running for an elected office while not registered with any one party to swear under oath that they are indeed not party affiliated and have not been for a certain length of time. The length of time a candidate will have to be independent from a political party has yet to be specified.
The intention of the bill is to limit candidates who are part of a political party from abruptly dropping their party affiliation in favor of running as a non-party affiliate or Independent.
The reasoning behind the bill that those who suddenly leave their political parties in order to run as NPAs may be motivated to do so not to better their chances of success, but to syphon off votes from one of the two candidates associated with one of the major political parties. These individuals are known as spoiler candidates, and their purpose is to worsen the chances of a given candidate by confusing the voting public.
The bill appears to be, at in least in part, motivated by events that occurred during the last election cycle in 2020. The Democratic incumbent for District 37, former Sen. José Javier Rodríguez, was beat out by his Republican opponent Ileana Garcia by just 34 votes. The third candidate present in this particular race is the type of spoiler candidate this bill is trying to prevent from running.
The third NPA candidate in the race for the District 37 Senate seat was Alex Rodriguez, and he managed to win a total of 6,382 votes, a significant number in a race ultimately decided by just 34 votes. Alex Rodriguez was a registered Republican up until the day before he filed his candidacy paperwork.
There have been accusations of foul play in two more state Senate elections in Florida in addition to this particular case, with claims that “dark money” has been fueling these spoiler candidates. The race in District 37 was unique in that the spoiler candidate was able to have a tangible effect on the outcome of the election.
Currently, under Florida law a candidate must wait one year after switching between parties before being able to run under another one. The proposed bill aims to make the same true if a candidate is attempting to switch from being party affiliated to NPA.
If approved by the Florida Legislature and signed by Gov. DeSantis, the bill regarding spoiler candidates is set to take effect on July 1, 2021.
Featured image: A scattering of “I voted” stickers. Unmodified photo by Element5 Digital used under an Unsplash license. (https://bit.ly/3rT3qWE).
Check out other recent articles from the Florida Political Review here.