Testimony: Florida Elections Deny Thousands of Citizens Representation

Editor’s note: Every 20 years, the Florida Constitution Revision Commission meets and considers proposed reforms to the state constitution that the commission has the authority to put on the ballot. Among the election reform issues brought before the commission this year are nonpartisan elections and ballot access. Below is a speech Ryan Sharp, vice president of America’s Party of Florida, will give before the commission on Wednesday, May 10, advocating for ballot access reform:

ALSO READ: Nonpartisan Elections in Florida? One Coalition is Trying to Make It Happen

Good evening, Commission members, I’m Ryan Sharp, elected Vice President of America’s Party of Florida. We are an educational grassroots group making sure that the principles of America’s founders are preserved. George Washington urged us all to “raise a standard from which the wise and honest can repair” and then asserted “rest is in the hands of God.” Since 2008, we’ve had a bi-weekly conference call open to all citizens of good will to discuss politics, current events, and to talk to candidates and elected officials.

I am here on behalf of myself and thousands of legal Floridians who were denied their constitutional right of representation during the 2016 elections. Article 1, section 1 of the Florida Constitution says, “all political power is inherent in the people.” I have handed you copies of our press release that lays out the facts of our case in detail. I will not focus on the injustice today, but will lay out the solutions.

In 1998, Article 6, Section 1 was added by this commission with the intent to make elections more fair for all parties and NPAs. This, in fact, had the opposite effect and added burdensome requirements for those outside the two major parties. We demand that these burdens end immediately and that the rights of the people to vote for those whom represent them be returned.

We propose that the following provisions be added to Article 6, Section 1.

  1. a) Any legal citizen who meets all age, citizenship, and residency requirements written in the United States Constitution and in the Florida Constitution, shall be able to be printed on the ballot and/or have their votes counted as a write-in candidate for the office of their choice without any undue burden, requirement, or registration beyond the lawful means of proving their citizenship and that they meet the age, citizenship, and residency requirements of the US and Florida Constitutions for the particular office they are running for. All fees, charges, financial obligations, and/or registration fees shall not exceed $75, and no petitions/signature requirements must be met beyond 50 for any candidate who wishes to run for any office.
  2. b) Ballot rules – If the number of registered candidates for a particular office equals less than ten, then all candidates for that particular office shall be printed on the ballot in alphabetical order according to the candidate’s last name. If the number of registered candidates for a particular office equals ten or more, then none of the candidates for that particular office shall be printed on the ballot. Instead, a blank write-in line shall be printed on the ballot in that case.

These provisions fix the original intent of Article 6, Section 1, and more crucially help restore the constitutional right of every citizen of Florida to have representation. This is a government of the People, by the People, and for the People; not of the elites, by the major parties, and for the Republicans and Democrats.

On behalf of the thousands denied a choice, a voice, and a vote in the last election, we demand our rights back and respectfully request these provisions be adopted and added to the Florida Constitution as proposed. I end with a quote from founder Thomas Pain: “The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which other rights are protected.”

Photo Credit: KMH Photo Video / shutterstock.com