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Surprise! Election supervisors praise ruling by Gov. Scott's staff

Published Aug. 17, 2015

Surprise, surprise. Gov. Rick Scott's election experts have taken a step that has the support of Florida's supervisors of elections -- for a change.

The issue involves candidates for Congress and state Senate in 2016 and the ongoing redistricting mess in Tallahassee, and a ruling by the state Division of Elections will be good news to candidates and ease confusion on the campaign trail.

Candidates in Florida can get on the ballot by paying a qualifying fee or collecting valid signatures from registered voters. For Congress, it requires 2,298 signatures and for state Senate, 1,552. It takes a lot of work, but it saves candidates money and helps build a cornerstone of a grass-roots network.

Here's the glitch: State law requires that signatures be collected from voters who live in the district where the candidate is running -- except in a reapportionment year when the signatures are valid from anywhere in Florida. Election supervisors must decide which signatures are legal and which are not, and the 2016 petition gathering is already underway. But congressional and Senate district boundaries aren't final, so how would candidates know which signatures are legitimate?

Election supervisors have been asking Secretary of State Ken Detzner's office for weeks for clarification. Detzner's Division of Elections said Friday that signatures will be considered valid "from any registered voter in Florida," and candidates don't have to list the number of the district they are running from for the signatures to count.

"We can now relay the pertinent information on ballot placement via the petition method to both congressional and state Senate candidates for the 2016 cycle," said Pasco Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley, president of the statewide supervisors' group. Supervisors and Detzner have clashed repeatedly since he took office in 2012, most recently over Detzner's unsuccessful efforts to sidetrack a bill creating an online voter registration portal by 2017.