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Facing lawsuit, DeSantis sets special elections for South Florida legislative races

DeSantis, a Republican, was accused of waiting too long to set election dates to fill the vacancies in a lawsuit filed 12 days ago by the Harvard Election Law Clinic on behalf of Broward and Palm Beach voters.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. [ MARTA LAVANDIER | AP ]
Published Oct. 28

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday night scheduled special elections for three South Florida legislative seats that will become vacant in January, after waiting months to do so and recently being sued over the inaction.

The three districts — one in Broward County, Senate District 33, and two in Palm Beach County, House Districts 88 and 94 — are Democratic strongholds.

The district vacancies, which will become effective in January, were created in July when Sen. Perry Thurston and Reps. Bobby DuBose and Omari Hardy, all Black Democrats, resigned to qualify to fill Florida’s 20th Congressional District vacancy left by the death of Congressman Alcee Hastings.

The governor’s executive order set the primary date for the three legislative seats for Jan. 11 and the general election for March 8. This means Democrats, who are in the minority in the Florida Legislature, will have fewer members in each chamber for the 60-day legislative session next year, which starts Jan. 11 and ends March 11.

“The strength of any democracy is the ability for voters to be represented and heard. Sadly, the governor has chosen to deny voters in Senate District 33 and House Districts 88 and 94 their constitutional right to be represented in Tallahassee during the 2022 legislative session. No Floridian’s vote or voice should ever be silenced,” said Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book, of Plantation.

DeSantis, a Republican, was accused of waiting too long to set election dates to fill the vacancies in a lawsuit filed 12 days ago by the Harvard Election Law Clinic on behalf of Broward and Palm Beach voters.

The lawsuit, which sought a judge’s order to compel the governor to set election dates for the vacancies, said that an examination of 65 vacancies from 1999 through 2020 showed governors took an average of 7.6 days to call special elections to fill those seats.

DeSantis called a special election in the three South Florida legislative races 87 days after the vacancies arose. His office did not provide a reasoning for the delay. Instead, the governor’s office said “the Department of State would be best positioned to address inquiries about the special elections.”

The lawsuit also noted that this is the second time DeSantis has been sued to compel him to call a special election. The first lawsuit came after he took 30 days to call a special election to fill the vacancy left by Hastings’ death. DeSantis called a special election a week later, according to the lawsuit.