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Gov. Ron DeSantis delays Pasco city elections

Three cities had been scheduled to vote April 14.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has postponed the April 14 municipal elections in Pasco County. Times (2012)
Gov. Ron DeSantis has postponed the April 14 municipal elections in Pasco County. Times (2012) [ Times (2012) ]
Published Apr. 9, 2020

Pasco County’s municipal election season just got a little longer.

Gov. Ron DeSantis postponed the city elections in Dade City, San Antonio and Zephyrhills amid concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. The executive order delaying the April 14 nonpartisan elections came at the request of Pasco Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley, who said postponement was the best way to ensure the safety of voters, poll workers and others.

At least one candidate had hoped the election would go on as scheduled.

“I would rather get it done,’’ Dade City Commissioner Jim Shive said prior to the governor’s April 8 order.

Shive, the only incumbent seeking re-election in Dade City, noted that the city spent $1,500 on mailings, urging residents to vote by mail rather than appearing in-person at the polling site. Using a mail ballot is the safest way for voters to protect themselves, he said.

Related: Pasco seeks to push city elections to August

The delay also extends the tenure of Dade City Commissioners Eunice Penix and Nicole Deese Newlon, both of whom declined to seek re-election. Their terms now last until the election results are certified. Two commission members in San Antonio and Zephyrhills Mayor Gene Whitfield, all of whom are running for re-election, also remain in office.

The governor’s order did not specify a date for the re-scheduled election, although Corley had suggested it be pushed to the Aug. 18 primary. The governor’s order said he would issue a second order rescheduling the election as soon as practical.

Questions remain over whether the Pasco city elections “pick up where we are going forward or start over,’’ Corley said. There would be no new qualifying period for candidates, he said, since the interruption came after the February deadline for people to get their names on the ballot.

Related: What's new this election season in Pasco

One of the challenges with continuing the current election to Aug. 18 is ensuring that people voting in the primary don’t also cast a second ballot in the city elections if they’ve already voted by mail.

"That would be highly problematic to give someone a ballot with everything but one race on there,'' Corley said.

As of Thursday morning, 1,663 ballots had been cast in the three cities, or 10.9 percent of the 15,250 eligible voters. The majority of the activity is in Zephyrhills, where 1,165 ballots had been cast in the mayoral race.

“It’s a strange feeling delaying an election,’’ said Corley, “but appropriate in my opinion."

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