How Should Candidates Be Listed On New Florida Ballots?

Occasionally during election cycles, I’ll receive a question or two about how candidates are listed on their ballots. This generally comes from people who’ve relocated to Florida because the way we do it is different than most states. In 1951, Florida passed a law that determined that all candidates would be listed on ballots in the order of the party of the governor. In other words, if a Democrat was a governor, all partisan races would feature the Democrat candidates first. From 1876 to 1966, 90 years, a Republican never won a Gubernatorial election in Florida. That changed in 1967 when Claude Kirk won. That was the beginning of a shift in Florida politics. Starting with that election Republicans have won eight of the fourteen elections including six straight wins. That’s what brought about Democrats bringing a legal challenge against the law their party enacted. The legal challenge stated that Florida’s ordering of political candidates created an unfair advantage for the party in power. On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Walker agreed.

Mark Walker struck down Florida’s ballot order law and suggested new rules should be advised within a matter of weeks without further direction. The DeSantis administration announced they will appeal the decision but are complying with the order in the meantime. That really doesn’t require much at the moment other than notifying election supervisors that changes may be forthcoming as we’re currently between election cycles. But, do you think Florida’s ballot order law is unfair? What would be fair? How do you order candidates fairly? It’s easy to say the law is unfair. It’s much harder to objectively answer the question. If legal precedent is set saying candidates listed first have an advantage, they’ll always be disenfranchisement of candidates who aren’t listed first. Aside from going to write-in only ballots, which would be implausible for most elections, especially non-partisan and judicial races, how would you balance this out in a way that could be legally “fair” by that standard? 

There are more questions than answers at this point.

Photo by: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

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