Rick Scott won two close races for governor by a single percentage point. President Donald Trump carried Florida by 1.2 points in 2016. The two Republicans ran in different years, but they had something in common. Their names appeared first on the ballots, above those of their Democratic rivals, and Democrats argue in a lawsuit that Republicans no longer should enjoy an unfair advantage. In Florida, the listing of candidates in partisan races favors the party that controls the governor’s office. Some states such as Ohio, New Hampshire and Montana rotate names of candidates between counties or precincts.
Now, with Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in the fight of his political life, and with polls showing a very close race, Democrats want to change the ballot order law that they say creates “position bias,” calling it “an invisible thumb … on the scale in favor of Republican candidates.”
The Democratic National Committee, its three congressional and legislative campaign groups and a progressive advocacy group, Priorities USA, want a federal judge to strike down Florida’s 67-year-old law, which for most of that time favored Democrats, and replace it with a random system.
The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in Tallahassee — the same judge who in February ruled that Florida’s system of restoring voting rights to people with felony convictions is unconstitutional. The state has appealed the decision and a federal appeals court will hear arguments in Atlanta on Wednesday.