Feb 25, 2020 - Politics & Policy

2 Florida Democrats sue to disqualify Sanders from state primary

Bernie Sanders

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Two Florida Democrats filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to block Sen. Bernie Sanders — a self-declared independent — from appearing on the state's primary ballot next month on the grounds of Florida having a closed primary system, Politico reports.

The big picture: Florida's closed primary system does not allow individuals to cast votes across party lines or for independents or third-party voters to participate. Sanders is an independent who caucuses with Democrats in the Senate, but is currently the front-runner in the Democratic primary for president.

  • The suit is backed by two resident Florida Democrats: Frank Bach and George Brown.

What they're saying: Karen Gievers, a former Florida circuit court judge representing the plaintiffs, said, "Florida is a closed primary state, yet here we have someone who is an independent on the Democratic ballot. You can’t be an independent and be a member of the party."

  • Juan Penalosa, executive director of the Florida Democratic Party, countered: "The Florida Democratic Party executive committee voted unanimously to place Senator Sanders on the Florida ballot. Votes cast for the senator are valid and must be counted.”

Between the lines: Florida law does allow political parties to determine which candidates appear on their primary ballot, and Sanders appeared on the Florida primary ballot in 2016.

  • The move comes as Sanders is facing major backlash in Florida, which has a large Cuban population, over his comments praising aspects of Fidel Castro's dictatorship.
  • Sanders, a democratic socialist, said during a "60 Minutes" interview that he condemns Castro's authoritarianism, but that not everything the Cuban leader did was bad.
  • "He had a massive literacy program," Sanders said. "Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?"

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