TALLAHASSEE — In a highly unusual move, the Florida House will vote today on whether to accept election results that would give state Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa, another two years in office.
Grant easily won the House District 64 election this month, topping fellow Republican Miriam Steinberg. But the results have been called into question because of a long-running legal dispute that centers on write-in candidate Daniel John Matthews. The 1st District Court of Appeal last month overturned a lower-court ruling that said Matthews couldn't run for the seat because he did not live in the district, which covers northwestern Hillsborough and northeastern Pinellas counties.
In an emailed statement Monday, incoming House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, said the "House finds itself in an unprecedented position regarding the election results of House District 64." But he said the Florida Constitution give the House the "sole authority" to judge the elections of its members. "Due to the pending controversy, the Florida House will be given a choice to reject the election results for House District 64,'' Crisafulli said. "If a majority of the membership votes in favor of the motion, there will be a vacancy on Tuesday and I will request Governor Scott to call a special election to fill the vacancy, as required by law."
A Leon County circuit judge ruled July 31 that Matthews had not complied with a state law that requires write-in candidates at the time of qualifying to live in the districts they seek to represent. Because of the lateness of the July 31 ruling, Circuit Judge Angela Dempsey ordered that the election between Grant and Steinberg be held in November, instead of during the Aug. 26 primary.
But the appeals court last month sided with Matthews, finding that the law involved in the case was unconstitutional. Steinberg's attorney, who is also her husband, said last week he would now take the case to the state Supreme Court.