Not to make you nervous, but on September 15 the Florida Supreme Court threw out an election and ordered a new one. The ruling raises a set of interesting questions, such as under what circumstances courts can throw out election results, especially in light of the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court is currently split 4-4 and the pending presidential race. The Florida Supreme Court case was called Wright v. City of Miami Gardens. James Barry Wright had a compelling case. He was a candidate for Mayor of Miami Gardens when he was told that the check he used to pay his candidate filing fee was returned by the bank. Although Wright had ample funds to cover the fee, the bank didn’t cash the check because they could not find the account number listed. Yet other checks written on the same account had cleared. It was a bank error. But that didn’t matter. Wright was struck from the ballot because of the check. And so he sued to get his name back on the ballot. Meanwhile, the election happened without him.
Wright appealed all the way to the Florida Supreme Court, who agreed that he should not have been removed from the ballot. Among the reasoning for granting relief, the Florida Supreme Court returned to first principals like: “Our Florida Constitution opens by succinctly reaffirming a truism that is the heart of our government: ‘All political power is inherent in the people.’ Art. 1, § 1 Fla. Const. This Court has long considered free and fair elections vital to ensuring that such political power is not usurped from the people.”
The Florida Supreme Court noted that the right at stake here was Wright’s right to run for office. As the Court said, “[f]undamental to our system of government is the principle that the right to be a candidate for public office is a valuable one and no one should be denied this right …” The Court cited its previous 1956 case, Ervin v. Collins, which stated: “The lexicon of democracy condemns all attempts to restrict one’s right to run for office. The Supreme Court of the United States has approved the support of fundamental questions of law with sound democratic precepts.”