Statement in Response to Maneuver to Close State Attorney Primary Election in Florida

May 16, 2016
CONTACT: Ricardo A. Ramírez, 202.728.9557

Advancement Project Statement in Response to Maneuver to Close State Attorney Primary Election in Florida’s Fourth Judicial Circuit

WASHINGTON – Late last week, State Attorney Angela Corey’s campaign manager, Alexander Pantinakis, filed qualifying paperwork on behalf of attorney Kenny Leigh, a Corey supporter, to run for State Attorney in the Florida’s Fourth Judicial Circuit as a write-in candidate. This last-minute action flipped the primary election from an open contest into a closed Republican primary, a maneuver that effectively locks out African American voters from the process.

Prior to Leigh’s qualification as a write-in candidate, more than 750,000 voters would have had a voice in the primary election. Now, as a result of Corey’s campaign manager’s actions, the next State Attorney for Florida’s Fourth Judicial Circuit (Duval, Clay and Nassau counties) will effectively be selected by a mere 300,000 Republican voters. At least 96 percent of African American voters will not be able to vote in the primary for State Attorney. This means that more than 167,000 African American voters (those registered as Democrats and Independents) in Duval, Clay and Nassau counties will have no voice in this important primary.

“Closing off the voting booth to hundreds of thousands of Black voters is a resurrection of the infamous all-white primary, used to disenfranchise Black voters after Reconstruction,” said Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of Advancement Project. “The right to vote is our most sacred right.  It is the key to having a voice in our democracy.”

“Voting in this country should be free, fair, and accessible for all,” said the Rev. Eddie A. Hailes, Jr., managing director for Advancement Project. “Florida’s election laws, the legislative body that passes them, and the election officials who enforce them should work together to clear barriers to the ballot box; not create them. As such, any actions that effectively shut out African American voters from participating in the democratic process should be condemned. This last-minute political maneuver appears to be an intentional effort to deny African Americans the opportunity to participate in this important election for the State Attorney position.”

Advancement Project is a leading non-partisan national civil rights organization that works to advance a just democracy.  Since 2000, we have worked in Florida and elsewhere, with a broad array of community, voter registration, and GOTV groups, statewide civic engagement coalitions, national partners and election officials to eliminate barriers to voting and to fulfill America’s promise of a caring, inclusive and just democracy.