Florida cities 'on alert', seeking to kill election date change idea
The Florida League of Cities is mobilizing opposition to kill a legislative proposal to revamp the state's elections timetable in advance of a House vote this week.
The House State Affairs Committee is scheduled to vote Thursday on a bill that would shift city elections to the same date as statewide November general election dates in even-numbered years and to similar dates in odd-numbered years. Most cities hold elections in the spring when they often have the ballot all to themselves. The change is being pushed by Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-North Fort Myers, the panel's chairman, who says his goal is to inprove voter turnout in city elections.
The League of Cities wants its 400-plus members to turn up the heat on all 18 committee members to defeat the idea. Cities say it would trample on their home-rule powers and could produce longer ballots (meaning longer lines at polling places) and even less voter participation, because city elections would be at the end of the ballot, after all federal, state and local contests and proposed constitutional amendments. A league "legislative alert" to its member cities also says the nonpartisan nature of municipal elections would be threatened by the change.
"What the proposal is attempting to do is standardize all the election dates and make all elections be in November," said David Cruz, assistant general counsel for the Florida League of Cities. "We believe that that would pre-empt home rule authority to choose election dates. We also feel it would affect several factors dealing with terms of office."
A staff report on the bill says the change could increase the cost of government: "The (bill) may increase expenditures for municipalities that are required to amend their charters or amend ordinances to modify existing election dates," the analysis says.
Tampa Bay lawmakers on House State Affairs are Reps. Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa, Jake Raburn, R-Lithia and Amanda Murphy, D-New Port Richey. The two South Florida members are Reps. Michael Bileca, R-Miami, and Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton.