Florida HB 1355, passed by the House on April 21, is 157 pages long. Among the changes is a provision that does not permit political parties to nominate anyone for any partisan office (other than president or presidential elector), if that person had been a registered member of another political party at any time during the year before filing to run for office.
The bill makes no exception for new parties. Therefore, a new party, formed in an election year, would not be permitted to have any nominees who had been members of another party for 18 months before the election. This part of the bill, if signed into law, would almost certainly be held unconstitutional. Similar laws in Oklahoma and Nevada were invalidated, as applied to new parties. The Oklahoma case was Crussel v Oklahoma State Election Board, 497 F Supp 646 (1980); the Nevada case was Long v Swackhamer, 538 P 2d 587 (1975). If a law like this had been in effect in 1854, the Republican Party would have been severely handicapped, because a great deal of Republicans elected that year had been Whigs or Democrats or Free Soilers immediately before the Republican Party was formed.
Courts in New Mexico and Colorado have ruled that it is unconstitutional for a state to tell a party that it can’t nominate a non-member. The Colorado case was Colorado Democratic Party v Meyer (1988); the New Mexico case was Whitaker v Herrera (2011).This prohibition is effectively a disciplinary and punitive probation period for party switchers, meant to discourage the practice to the benefit of the ruling parties. It is not as uncommon as you might think. In fact, it is rather similar to the law in Colorado denying ballot access to newly declared Independent candidates for office. From the Denver Post, early last year:
Unaffiliated candidates running for public office in Colorado must declare their independence well in advance — more than a year — of an election. No other political party, whether major or minor, must follow the same stringent rule. It's an unfair situation.
Joelle Riddle, a La Plata County commissioner, switched her party registration from Democrat to independent in August 2009, intending to run for re-election in 2010. Late in December, state Rep. Kathleen Curry left the Democratic Party and registered as unaffiliated, also planning to run for re-election.
But under Colorado law, the only way the candidates could be placed on the Nov. 2, 2010, ballot was to declare their unaffiliated status by June 15, 2009, the last day the required petition could be filed with the Secretary of State. Now both will have to appear as write-in candidates in the general election.
Riddle has filed a lawsuit and Curry plans to introduce legislation to overturn the current state law . . .