Plaintiffs Frank Bach and George Brown, both registered Democrats, argued that Sanders should not be on the ballot because he is a registered Independent. Accordingly, the lawsuit seeks to remove the Vermont senator from the ticket, in addition to discounting any early votes already cast for the 78-year-old Democratic socialist.
The lawsuit pointed out that Florida primaries are closed, meaning only Democrats –and not Independents — can vote for Democratic candidates. It added that candidates should follow the same rules.
“Florida is a closed primary state, yet here we have someone who is an independent on the Democratic ballot,” said Karen Gievers, a former circuit court judge representing the two plaintiffs.
“You can’t be an independent and be a member of the party,” she added.
However, the Florida Democratic Party vehemently disagreed with the lawsuit. Juan Penalosa, the executive director of the group, went so far as to call the lawsuit “ridiculous.”
In Florida politics, the party decides who can appear on the ballot, and therefore Sanders could technically have been disqualified due to his political affiliation. However, the Florida Democrats voted last year to include all major candidates.
“The Florida Democratic Party executive committee voted unanimously to place Senator Sanders on the Florida ballot,” Penalosa said.
“Votes cast for the senator are valid and must be counted,” he concluded.
Gievers also claimed that the Democratic party was engaging in voter “dilution,” a form of voter suppression in which too many candidates make it difficult for one to appear to have a commanding lead.
In addition to Sanders, the ballot will include 15 other candidates, even though some of the candidates included have dropped out of the race, such as California businessman Andrew Yang and former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick.
Sanders currently is polling in Florida at around 16.8 percent, per Five Thirty Eight. This would mean that the senator would meet the 15 percent threshold needed for collecting delegates. The primary will take place on Tuesday, March 17.
Meanwhile, the Sanders camp did not seem fazed by the suit.
“We’re aware of the spurious complaint and it will not affect us,” said Kolby Lee, a regional press secretary for Sanders.
“Bernie will be on the ballot in Florida,” she concluded.
Sanders has recently been growing momentum in the polls, and it remains to be seen if his popularity will grow after proposing universal free child care, as was previously covered by The Inquisitr.