Broward County

Broward judge tosses case seeking to remove Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz from Florida ballot

AP

A Broward judge dismissed a case that alleged GOP presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz were ineligible to run for president based on their citizenship.

Judge John Bowman told the plaintiff, Michael Voeltz, that he lacked standing in filing the case seeking to get Rubio and Cruz removed from the Florida March 15 primary ballot.

“The only injury here is no different than anyone else’s,” Bowman said in his ruling in the Broward County courthouse in Fort Lauderdale. “You have the right to vote. . . . This does ultimately reside in the hands of Congress.”

The crux of the case: the meaning of the phrase “natural born citizen’’ and how it applies to the two Republican senators. Rubio was born in Miami in 1971 to Cuban immigrants who became citizens a few years later. Cruz was born in Canada to a Cuban-born father and American mother, who moved to Texas when Cruz was 4.

Lawyers for both — David Di Pietro for Cruz and Gabriela Prado for Rubio — argued in court motions that the candidates met the criteria in the U.S. Constitution to run for president. (Di Pietro, a well-known Republican lawyer in Broward, recently endorsed Donald Trump so he handed off the case to his law partner, Nicole Martell, for the hearing Friday.)

The U.S. Constitution states that a presidential candidate must be a “natural born citizen.” Most legal experts say that the phrase means someone who is a citizen at birth. Also, the Naturalization Act of 1790, passed by Congress three years after the Constitution was written, stated that children born abroad to U.S. citizens were natural born citizens.

But Voeltz argued that the definition of “natural born citizens” refers to those born in the United States whose parents are U.S. citizens.

Voeltz filed a similar case against President Barack Obama in 2012, which a Leon County judge tossed out.

Voeltz works at a car dealership and represented himself. He also named the Republican Party of Florida as a co-defendant in the Broward case.

Bowman, a longtime registered Democrat, took about one minute to issue his ruling. The case drew political interest, since Florida’s presidential primary is 10 days away and hundreds of thousands have already voted by mail and at early voting sites. Next week, both Republican and Democratic presidential candidates will be in South Florida for separate debates. The Democratic primary debate will be Wednesday, March 9, at the Kendall Campus of Miami Dade College while the Republican primary debate will be Thursday, March 10, at the University of Miami in Coral Gables.

Rubio spokesman Alex Burgos told reporters at the Broward courthouse after the hearing that “this case is 100 percent frivolous.”

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