WFSU- GOP, Dem Party Officials Have Very Different Views On Judge Walker’s Ballot Order Ruling

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By Ryan Dailey

The chairman of Leon County’s Republican Party is ripping a federal judge’s ruling on ballot placement, which is already being appealed by the governor. At the same time, the head of Florida’s Democratic Party is lauding the ruling as a “monumental” victory. 

Current law says the party controlling Florida’s governor’s mansion gets its candidates listed first on a ballot. But U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ruled against the system based on the “primacy effect,” or the idea that something listed first gets an edge. Experts called to testify argued it can give a 3 ½ to 5 percent advantage in elections, which Walker noted in Florida can be significant.

Leon GOP chair Evan Power is calling Walker an “activist judge.”

“It’s not shocking that Judge Walker has another activist ruling that sides with the Democratic Party and their increasingly litigious manner,” Power said Monday. “I think, obviously, this law’s been in effect for 70 years, and it is a good way to create ballot placement that’s fair and predictable.”

Terrie Rizzo, chair of Florida’s Democratic Party, struck a very different tone:

“This is a huge victory for Florida voters. This law was another attempt by Florida Republicans to unconstitutionally sway an election,” Rizzo said in a statement, “and give Republicans an unfair  advantage.”

The DeSantis administration is appealing Walker’s ruling. In the meantime, the judge’s decision directs Florida’s Secretary of State to give local elections supervisors about a month and a half to draw up a new ballot order scheme – two weeks to inform of the ruling and three to get a new plan in place. 

The 70-year-old law has applied to Republicans for the last 20 years, but it was put in place by a Democratic administration.