The decision by Gov. Rick Scott’s administration to block Evan McMullin’s presidential campaign from the general election ballot seems contrary to past decisions made by his own election officials, and is deemed “unfair” and unenforceable by some ballot access experts. On Aug. 31, the Independent Party of Florida formally filed nominating papers to make McMullin its presidential candidate in Florida. McMullin is a former CIA operative and Republican staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives who was recruited by a group of GOP consultants, including Florida’s Rick Wilson, looking for an alternative to Donald Trump. In a Sept. 7 letter, Division of Elections Director Maria Matthews informed Ernest Bach, chair of the Independent Party of Florida, that its nominee for president could not be on the general election ballot. The department, which is overseen by Scott, said the Independent Party of Florida could not get its nominee placed on the general election because it is not recognized as a “national party” by the Federal Election Commission.
McMullin’s camp has said it thinks the state’s decision is blatantly political because Scott not only supports Trump, but runs a super PAC supporting him. Most believe McMullin would take Republican votes from Trump, which could make a difference in a state known for tight presidential races. “We know what his [Rick Scott’s] preference is,” said Sarah Rumpf, a McMullin consultant. “He has a very public, visible role as head of the PAC, head cheerleader, head fundraiser, and is a top surrogate for Donald Trump.”
The FEC officially recognizes 13 official national parties. The Scott administration has said since the Independent Party of Florida is not recognized by the FEC, state law does not allow its presidential nominees to get on the ballot.
Others disagree. “No, I do not think in any way that this reflects a compelling state interest that justifies exclusion from the ballot,” said David Schoen, a New York-based attorney who has worked to help get ballot access for minor party candidates ballot access.