Committee bill seeks to bring back party runoff elections

by | Feb 20, 2024

A proposed committee bill introduced by the House State Affairs Committee seeks to reintroduce runoff elections in Florida for primary races where no candidate secures a majority.

Update: A House panel Temporarily Postponed the bill on Feb. 21

A committee bill filed on Monday could bring party runoffs back into the Floridian political fold.

Presented by the House State Affairs Committee, the legislation would introduce a second primary election when no candidate in a partisan race wins a majority of the votes — an electoral structure not utilized since the turn of the century.

Under the legislation, if no candidate achieves more than 50 percent of the vote in a primary election, a second primary would be held 10 weeks before the general election. The run-off would feature the top two candidates from the first primary to determine the party’s nominee.

“The names of the candidates placing first and second in the first primary election shall be placed on the ballot in the second primary election,” reads the filing.

If adopted into law, the first primary election for all partisan races would occur 20 weeks prior to the General Election, followed by a runoff 10 weeks later, should no candidate secure a majority vote in the first round.

The bill specifies that a runoff is unnecessary if any candidate achieves a majority from the outset, with provisions also covering scenarios where only two candidates are tied.

“In any contest in which there is a tie for second place in the first primary election … the name of the candidate placing first and the names of the candidates tying for second shall be placed on the ballot in the second primary election,” the proposal reads.

Additionally, in years when legislative districts are redrawn, candidates for state legislative offices will move directly to the second primary to streamline the nomination process during redistricting years.

Campaign finance is also amended in the bill, with stipulated contribution limits set for the first primary, the second primary, and the general election, allowing for an increase in fundraising and spending across the different phases of the election cycle.

Upon the bill’s filing, U.S. Congressman Rep. Matt Gaetz and Congressional candidate Anthony Sabatini both spoke against the measure, questioning its necessity.

“Runoff elections cost taxpayers millions, increase targets for fraudsters, and empower establishment candidates over firebrands,” said Gaetz, with Sabatini adding that “Moderate ‘RINOs’ and their consultants are pushing to eliminate any and all grassroots candidates in a second primary, where they can drown them in a second barrage of super PAC attack ads.”

Meanwhile, former U.S. Representative Gwen Graham voiced support for the measure on X, harkening her father and former Florida Governor Bob Graham’s 1978 gubernatorial victory, which was reached following a Democratic Primary runoff.

“When no primary candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, runoffs allow for the strongest candidate in the general election. My Dad would not have been Governor without the runoff. Bringing back runoffs would be good for Florida and democracy.

The introduction of second primaries is anticipated to influence campaign strategies by extending the duration of election campaigns. Candidates may need to engage in longer periods of voter outreach and fundraising and the requirement for a second primary could also impact voter turnout and participation, as voters are asked to return to the polls a second time.


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