Two Florida Democrats have filed a lawsuit in an attempt to stop Bernie Sanders (I-VT) from running in the state’s Democratic presidential primary on March 17.
The lawsuit was filed in Leon County on Monday by Tallahassee Democrats Frank Bach and George Brown, who argue that Sanders should not be allowed to run in the Democratic primary because he is a registered Independent, according to Politico.
The lawsuit also aims to stop state election officials from counting any votes that Sanders has already received, as over 244,000 Florida Democrats have voted by mail at this time.
“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,” said Karen Gievers, a former circuit court judge representing Bach and Brown.
Gievers described Bach and Brown as registered Democrats who are military veterans. Juan Penalosa, the executive director of the Florida Democratic Party, fired back by calling the lawsuit “ridiculous.”
“The Florida Democratic Party executive committee voted unanimously to place Senator Sanders on the Florida ballot,” Penalosa said. “Votes cast for the senator are valid and must be counted.”
Undeterred by this, Gievers responded by saying, “It‘s hard to think that voter suppression or dilution would be described as ridiculous by a party official.”
The Sanders campaign also has responded to the lawsuit in a brief statement that indicates they think it will not be successful.
“We’re aware of the spurious complaint and it will not affect us. Bernie will be on the ballot in Florida,” said Kolby Lee, a regional press secretary for Sanders.
Despite Sanders’ claimed confidence about the outcome of this lawsuit, it could not come at a worse time or in a worse place for him.
Sanders has found himself in hot water in Florida this week after comments he made praising the literacy program of the late communist dictator Fidel Castro. This then caused two Florida Democrats who represent Cuban districts to speak out against him.
Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL), an immigrant from Ecuador, called the Vermont senator’s comments “absolutely unacceptable.”
“As the first South American immigrant member of Congress who proudly represents thousands of Cuban Americans, I find Senator Bernie Sanders’ comments on Castro’s Cuba absolutely unacceptable,” Mucarsel-Powell tweeted. “The Castro regime murdered and jailed dissidents, and caused unspeakable harm to too many South Florida families. To this day, it remains an authoritarian regime that oppresses its people, subverts the free press, and stifles a free society.”
The Castro regime murdered and jailed dissidents, and caused unspeakable harm to too many South Florida families. To this day, it remains an authoritarian regime that oppresses its people, subverts the free press, and stifles a free society.
— Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (@DebbieforFL) February 24, 2020
Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL) agreed, writing, “I’m hoping that in the future, Senator Sanders will take time to speak to some of my constituents before he decides to sing the praises of a murderous tyrant like Fidel Castro.”
I’m hoping that in the future, Senator Sanders will take time to speak to some of my constituents before he decides to sing the praises of a murderous tyrant like Fidel Castro. https://t.co/Iwvmay9LOH pic.twitter.com/KT9sQ0pfkh
— Donna E. Shalala (@DonnaShalala) February 24, 2020
This lawsuit is causing more problems for Sanders in a state where he already is on thin ice. Perhaps he should be a little more worried about this lawsuit after all.