Kevin Gross is a longtime political candidate who has run for Seminole CountyCommission three times and most recently for Clerk of Courts. But his name has never appeared on a ballot. He has never mailed out campaign fliers or even set up a campaign website. Still, Gross’ low-profile campaigns as a write-in candidate have had a big influence on Seminole’s elections process by shutting out a majority of the county’s voters. Now, Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Michael Ertel is urging legislators to take another crack at closing a loophole in the state’s election law that allows a write-in candidate — such as Gross and others across Central Florida — to close off primaries to all voters. “This little loophole has kind of bastardized the [elections] process,” Ertel said. “This is about the voters having faith and trust in the process. And it’s our job to make sure that everyone understands the process is working fairly for everyone.”
According to state law, all registered voters are eligible to vote in a primary election when only one party fields candidates. But there’s an exception: If a write-in candidate, who has no party affiliation, enters the race, then the primary is open only to registered voters of the party that has candidates. The winner of the primary then faces the write-in candidate in the general election.
Because the write-in candidate’s name doesn’t appear on the ballot, it virtually assures that the person who won the primary will win the seat. A write-in has never won an election in Florida, according to the Tampa Bay Times.