KEY POINTS

  • A suit argues that Sanders, a registered independent, can't be on Florida's ballot
  • The Florida Democratic Party had previously voted to have Sanders on the ballot
  • Party officials have dismissed the lawsuit as "ridiculous"

This week two Democrats in Florida filed a lawsuit aimed at keeping Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., from being listed on the state’s presidential primary ballot.

Registered Democrats Frank Bach and George Brown argue in their lawsuit that Sanders cannot be allowed on the ballot because he is a registered independent, not a Democrat, pointing out that he has also raised campaign funding as an independent. Sanders does caucus with Democrats in the Senate, however.

Former circuit court judge Karen Givers is representing the two plaintiffs. Speaking with Politico, Givers argued that “Florida is a closed primary state, yet here we have someone who is an independent on the Democratic ballot. You can’t be an independent and be a member of the party.”

Givers said that Bach and Brown are military veterans registered as Democrats.

While Florida’s primary is closed, parties are allowed to determine who is and isn’t allowed on their ballots. As it stands, the Florida Democratic Party has already voted unanimously to allow Sanders to be listed on the primary ballot, where he will join 15 other candidates.

The lawsuit, if successful, would seek to have mail-in votes cast for Sanders thrown out. So far, nearly 250,000 Florida Democrats have mailed in their primary votes; thousands of voters’ ballots would need to be nullified.

Both the Florida Democratic Party and Sanders’ campaign have expressed their condemnations of the lawsuit, with a Democrat official calling the legal action “ridiculous,” adding that all valid ballots will be counted including those in favor of the Vermont senator.

Kolby Lee, a spokesperson for Sanders, was also quick to dismiss the lawsuit: “We’re aware of the spurious complaint and it will not affect us. Bernie will be on the ballot in Florida.”

Florida is set to primary on March 17. The most recent polling data has Sanders in third place in the Sunshine State, behind former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Vice President Joe Biden. Biden is commanding a significant lead, roughly 15 points ahead of Bloomberg.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at a press conference at his New Hampshire campaign headquarters Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at a press conference at his New Hampshire campaign headquarters Photo: GETTY IMAGES / JUSTIN SULLIVAN