Federal Judge Declares Florida Ballots Unconstitutional, Orders Change

In States, Voting On

A federal judge in Florida ordered the state Friday to change the way candidates are listed on election ballots — a decision that Democrats in the crucial swing state say will finally take away an unfair advantage Republicans have enjoyed for years.

Democrats called the decision “monumental.” The state said it will appeal.

The current law says that whichever party holds the governor’s office can list its candidates first on the ballot in general elections. That hurts an opposing party, U.S. District Court Judge Mark E. Walker said.

He gave Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee two weeks to tell elections supervisors in all 67 counties that the current “ballot scheme” is unconstitutional. She has three weeks to come up with a new plan.

Walker heard testimony from researchers who said the “primacy effect” is real and can give a candidate a statistical advantage as great as 5.4 percentage points. Many voters tend to vote for the first name on the list of candidates, they said.

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