FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) –A federal judge in Fort Lauderdale is expected to rule Friday on a controversial lawsuit concerning the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s election in August.

U.S. District Judge William J. Zloch is expected to decide whether more than 700,000 voters will be allowed to vote in the race for State Attorney, according to CBS4 News partner The Miami Herald.

Katherine Fernandez Rundle, who has held the post since 1993 and was re-elected without opposition in 2008, is running against defense attorney Rod Vereen on August 14th. It’s a race that would have been open to all voters because no Republicans or independents filed to run.

However, just before the April filing deadline, attorneys Omar Malone and Michele Samaroo filed to run as write-in candidates. Neither of their names will appear on the ballot but under a controversial and criticized state elections opinion, their entry closed the primary race to just 525,890 Miami-Dade Democratic voters, which makes the August 14th election a winner-take-all-race.

The decision also meant independent and Republican voters could not cast their ballot in an election which will decide the county’s top law enforcement officer.

Vincent J. Mazzilli, an independent voter and a former Miami Drug Enforcement Administration special agent in charge, along with Republican Armando Lacasa, a former Miami commissioner, filed a lawsuit last month against Miami-Dade’s elections supervisor. They said the “gimmick” candidates have disenfranchised them from the right to vote for the important post.

In 1998, Florida voters overwhelmingly voted to change the state’s constitution, opening primary races to all voters if a candidate did not draw a challenger from the opposing party or independents in the general election.

But two years later, Secretary of State Katherine Harris issued an advisory opinion that decided that one single write-in candidate could close a primary.

Had no write-ins filed, Fernandez-Rundle and Vereen would have squared off in an open primary and she could have drawn support from Miami-Dade’s largely Hispanic Republicans and independents, from which she enjoys general support.

Overall, Miami-Dade has 1.2 million voters.

(©2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed material for this report.)


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