Under Art. VI Section 5(b) of the Florida Constitution, if the only candidates who file for election to an office belong to the same party, the primary election between those candidates is open to all voters. There is a loophole, however, in this so called universal primary law that allows someone to close what would otherwise be an open primary by filing as a write-in candidate for the general election.
This loophole was challenged in the case of LaCasa, et al. v. Townsley, et al., in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida. In that case, the only candidates who filed to be on the ballot for the office of State Attorney are two Democrats. This normally would result in voters from all parties being able to vote during the primary. Because, however, 2 people filed as write-in candidates for the general election, only Democrats can vote in the primary because it is closed. The plaintiffs alleged that the write-in candidates were shams who filed as write-ins solely for the purpose of excluding Republican and unaffiliated voters from the primary. This is not an uncommon practice in Florida and has been used by both major political parties to exclude opposing party members from voting in a primary. On July 25th, the District Court entered a Final Order of Dismissal rejecting the plaintiff’s challenge to the closed primary. The court concluded that the plaintiffs should petition the legislature, rather than the courts, to close the loophole in the primary law.