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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Two men who don’t want to see independent Sen. Bernie Sanders win the Democratic presidential nomination sued to try to nullify votes he'll get in Florida’s primary March 17.
Frank Bach, a retired letter carrier, and George Brown, a retired social worker, filed a lawsuit this week in Leon County Circuit Court, asking a judge to disqualify Sanders from the ballot and block Florida from certifying his votes.
“The plaintiffs have the right to cast their March 17 Democratic presidential preference primary votes for those who are really Democrats, not independents, and are entitled to this court’s protection of their right to vote for a Democrat, with the results not diluted by Defendant Sanders’ unlawful participation as an independent interloping improperly in the (primary),” the complaint says.
Juan Peñalosa, executive director of the Florida Democratic Party, called the lawsuit "ridiculous."
"The Florida Democratic Party Executive Committee voted unanimously to place Sen. Sanders on the Florida ballot," he said in an email. "Votes cast for the senator are valid and must be counted.”
Sanders has gained early front-runner status in the Democratic primary contest after wins in New Hampshire and Nevada and a strong showing in Iowa, where he won the popular vote.
Tallahassee attorney Karen Gievers, a retired circuit judge representing the two men, said the complaint was not prompted by concerns from moderate Democrats that Sanders is too far to the left to win a general election and beat President Donald Trump.
“Their concern is that there not be someone running as a Democrat who isn’t because that’s messing up their vote,” she said.
The complaint names as defendants the Florida Democratic Party, the Democratic National Committee, Sanders and Secretary of State Laurel Lee, Florida's chief elections officer. It seeks to block Lee from certifying votes for Sanders and stop the Democratic Party from awarding any delegates to him before the summer convention.
The complaint asserts there is no basis in Florida law for an independent to run in the Democratic primary. It notes that Sanders has raised nearly a million dollars as an independent running for reelection to his U.S. Senate seat in 2024.
“Defendant Sanders is clearly an independent and is clearly not a Democrat, by his own definition,” the lawsuit says. “His current ‘day job’ is as a United States senator and he has consistently, proudly asserted his service in that role as independent.”
The Vermont senator appeared on Florida ballots in 2016 during his first bid for president. He finished a distant second to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
It's too late to remove Sanders from the ballot. Thousands of Florida voters have returned mail ballots in the Democratic primary, a fact mentioned in the complaint.
Gievers, who is married to Bach, served on the bench from 2011 until last July, when she retired on her 70th birthday because of judicial age limits. She stepped down before a law raising the retirement age to 75 went into place.
Follow Jeff Burlew on Twitter: @JeffBurlew
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 2 Florida Democrats file lawsuit to disqualify Sanders in Fla. primary