This Letter to the Editor originally appeared in the Orlando Sentinel on January 31, 2023.
I understand Scott Maxwell’s concerns about partisanship in local elections ( “Judge allows more partisanship in Florida elections. Things are about to get uglier.” Jan. 13), but the November Hetherington v. Madden federal court decision need not make school board races more volatile.
In Hetherington, U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers ruled that the First Amendment protects a candidate’s right to express his party affiliation in nonpartisan races. But school board elections are already politically charged, even without candidates saying “magic words” like Republican or Democrat. The intensity of a candidate’s partisanship does not change just because he can suddenly express his party affiliation out loud.
This First Amendment victory is a win for voters, who can now more clearly and quickly learn truthful information about candidates. This allows voters to have transparency about the candidates and decide for themselves if partisan affiliation is important.