Largo residents voting in the Nov. 3 election will be asked to amend the city charter to reduce the length of the city's qualification period for would-be candidates for City Commission. While that may sound like a bad idea, it actually would solve some problems caused by Largo's overly long qualification period.
At 60 days, Largo has the longest qualification period in Pinellas County. During that time, candidates must get petition cards signed by at least 200 registered Largo voters and those signatures must be verified. Some candidates pick up the blank cards early in the period, get them signed and submitted quickly, and then must wait until the end of the 60 days to learn who their opponents will be.
Also, under state law, candidates cannot get useful voter information from the Supervisor of Elections Office until the qualification period has ended, meaning Largo candidates face a long delay before they can obtain that information and get started on certain aspects of their campaigns. With mail ballots now going out to voters so quickly after the end of the qualification period, candidates want to ramp up their campaigns sooner.
Largo commissioners have found a way to address the problem without harm to candidates who enter a race late. Their proposed change to the city charter would reduce the qualifying period to only 15 days, but would authorize the city clerk to hand out petition card packets to potential candidates 45 days before the qualifying period begins. Candidates would still have up to 60 days to get their cards signed and verified.
The proposed charter change does no harm and would smooth out problems caused by changes in state election law.
On the city charter change, the Times recommends a yes vote.