Suspicious Greens show need for Instant Runoff Voting
by Barbara Rodgers-Hendricks, Green Party of Florida
What happened to the five mystery candidates in Florida? †Answer: They revealed themselves as GOP Moles. Not legally, but an objective observer could certainly draw that conclusion. Here’s the story.
To recall, five young persons filed as candidates for the Florida legislature by changing their party registrations at the last minute and paying the filing fee. They registered as Green, but were unknown to Green Party activists in the state. (Article in Green Pages, Fall 2008)
These filings were immediately suspicious. It now seems obvious Republicans recruited the candidates for the purpose of siphoning off votes from Democrats in races deemed tight and important for Republican wins. Three candidates filed for seats in the Florida state House and two in the Florida state Senate.
It may be of interest to take a closer look at one of these races. Horatio Lemus, Florida House District 69 Green Party candidate, did not campaign at all, but Democrats in the district received mailings a few days before the election, criticizing the Democrat Keith Firzgerald and urging a vote for Lemus, the Green. Laura Benson, the Republican, was not mentioned. (Fitzgerald had narrowly defeated Benson in 2006 by 1,000 votes.) †Lemus’s name was misspelled on the flyer as “Remus.” The flyer said he wants to “protect the environment first and improve Florida’s fuel-efficiency standards.”
Despite repeated attempts by the Green Party of Florida (GPF) to contact these candidates, only one filled out the questionnaire requested by the party. His positions revealed that he did not share Green values and probably had not even read the Green Party platform.
Another candidate, Kristina Wright, responded to a personal contact and met with members of the GPF. Rejecting offers for coaching, she participated in one forum and then suspended her campaign. Other candidates avoided contact with the GPF and the media.
These shenanigans would be of no value if Instant Runoff Voting were employed.
Election results show Democrat and Republican wins in the Senate. Two Democrats and one Republican won the House seats. Votes for the Greens ranged between two and six percent, but in no case were there enough Green votes to affect the outcome of the race. In two of the House races, the difference between the Republican and Democrat votes was four percent and five percent, with the Greens garnering two percent and four percent. But Democrats won both those races.
It should be noted these shenanigans would be of no value if Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) were employed. People would simply rank their preferences and their second choice would come into play if no candidate received a majority in the first round of voting. Assuming a three-way race among Republican, Democrat, and Green, with green voters preferring Democrats over Republicans and Greens in third place, the Democrats would get the Green votes in the second round of counting. The “spoiler effect” would be eliminated.
Although Florida turned blue for the presidential election, the governor is Republican, and Republicans retained a majority in both branches of the legislature. It would be to the Democrats’ advantage to join with Greens in initiating IRV, yet they are not convinced. †After years of promoting IRV, the Greens in Florida have had limited success. Sarasota is the only city in which IRV has passed, but it has not yet been implemented. Greens in Brooksville are presently petitioning to get IRV on the ballot.
Regarding the present election, a lawsuit is in progress, with a hearing set for January. Under a new Florida law, HB 537, passed in 2007, candidates can switch parties when they file and are not required to have the approval of their party, but it is a violation of elections law for the candidate to accept money in order to run.
One candidate, Sarah Roman, was chosen as the target of the suit because her case seemed the most suspicious. She has no money in the bank yet loaned herself the nearly $2,000 filing fee. The purpose of the suit is to force her to testify where she got the money to pay the filing fee.
The GPF will seek legal advice as to how to prevent this from happening again. The law, which opened a Pandora’s box for Greens, allows the party to require a fee from the candidate. Almost certainly, the GPF will write such a requirement into its by-laws. Thus the GPF would be alerted when a bogus candidate filed and could then wage a campaign against him or her.