FL Officials Trying to Keep McMullin Off Presidential Ballot, Reversing Earlier Interpretation of FL Ballot Access Law

Missed this Politico story from last week, and it looks like McMullin would have a good case if the campaign went to court:

he decision by Gov. Rick Scott’s administration to block Evan McMullin’s presidential campaign from the general election ballot seems contrary to past decisions made by his own election officials, and is deemed “unfair” and unenforceable by some ballot access experts.

On Aug. 31, the Independent Party of Florida formally filed nominating papers to make McMullin its presidential candidate in Florida. McMullin is a former CIA operative and Republican staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives who was recruited by a group of GOP consultants, including Florida’s Rick Wilson, looking for an alternative to Donald Trump.

n a Sept. 7 letter, Division of Elections Director Maria Matthews informed Ernest Bach, chair of the Independent Party of Florida, that its nominee for president could not be on the general election ballot.

The department, which is overseen by Scott, said the Independent Party of Florida could not get its nominee placed on the general election because it is not recognized as a “national party” by the Federal Election Commission….

The Scott administration’s recent decision seemingly runs contrary to a different 2011 ruling made by his Department of State.

That one dealt with a group called Americas Elect, which was pushing to get a presidential nominee on Florida’s ballot. The group, which was a non-profit organized as a 501(c)4, formed to advocate for a national online primary.

In a Sept. 2011 letter to an attorney representing the group, Department of State officials said they only have a “ministerial function” in qualifying candidates, so they could put up no road blocks as long as filing paperwork was on time and complete.

“Therefore, if a minor political party registered in Florida files the required certificate, which is complete on its face … the Secretary ‘shall order the names of the candidates nominated by the minor political party to be included on the ballot,’” read a letter signed by Daniel Nordby, the department’s former general counsel.

He said DOS would allow a candidate nominated by the group on the ballot, but clarified the “Department’s ministerial placement of the party’s candidates on the ballot” would not prevent an outside legal challenge. The letter specifically mentions the same statutes the department cited when blocking the Florida Independent Party’s general election ballot access.

“So Florida and other states were very respectful of Americans Elects and went out of their way to ease ballot access … they didn’t want to get sued,” Winger, who edits Ballot Access News, told POLITICO Florida. “Now that the parties are suffering in Florida and are less powerful, the state feels it can change the rule with impunity.”

When asked about the ruling, Beatrice, the department spokeswoman, pointed to a change made to the statutes in question during the 2011 Legislation session. The department ruling, though, came in September of that year, which was months after the legislative session…

n a statement sent to POLITICO Florida Friday afternoon, Secretary of State Ken Detzner acknowledged that the agency “made a legal error in 2012 when we granted these minor parties placement on the ballot.”

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