Florida Democrats, Republicans join to ask delay in candidate petition deadline

03-23-20 Virtual press conferenceCandidates in a virtual press conference call for a delay in the petition deadline to get on the August primary ballot. From left to right: Cindy Banyai, Michael Blueming, Steven Meza, Darlene Swaffer, Sakinah Lehtola and Willie Anderson.

March 23, 2020 by David Silverberg.

Florida Democratic and Republican candidates joined today in appealing to Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) to postpone or waive the election petition deadline and reduce the filing fee to get on the ballot for the August 18 primary election.

The letter and a virtual press conference to publicize it was organized by Democrat Cindy Banyai, running for Congress in the 19th Congressional District and Republican Michael Blueming, running for Congress in the 21st.

“The current outbreak of COVID-19 and the mounting health concerns for the global community is making this task of collecting signatures a near impossible venture,” their letter states. “By not postponing or extending the deadline for candidates to reach their petition numbers, you are effectively disenfranchising many grassroots funded candidates who are unable to pay for the filing fees.

“We request you remove the ballot verification deadline and qualifying date, in addition to waiving or reducing the filing fee for all currently active candidates,” it stated.

Under Florida election rules, by noon today a candidate for federal office was to submit petitions equal to 1 percent of a congressional district’s voting population or pay $10,044, the equivalent of 4 percent of a US representative’s salary. State and local fees are lower.

“The community is working together,” said Blueming during the virtual press conference, in which 14 candidates spoke. “I encourage the governor to move swiftly with this.”

“This process in Florida is really unconstitutional,” said Andrew Ellison, the Democratic candidate in the 17th Congressional District where he is running against Rep. Greg Steube. “The fee is discriminatory. It keeps a lot of minority groups out of the process. It keeps a lot of great talent from running.”

“Anything but online organizing is the only thing possible,” said Adam Christensen, a Democratic candidate in the 3rd Congressional District. “Our office is closed and business is providing sick leave. We should completely waive the filing fee or take it down to 20 percent or make it $1,000. Right now it’s not feasible. For me and a lot of other people, this is not sustainable. We have one of the highest filing fees in the country.”

“The past week we have not been able to get petitions,” said Sakinah Lehtola, a Democratic candidate in the 24th Congressional District. “Our volunteers are out of work. I greatly reduced my hours and now I’m out of work too. I grew up really poor and money has been a problem my entire life and money should not be a barrier now.”

“We must ensure elections are fair,” said Elijah Manley, a Democrat for the Florida House of Representatives in District 94. “We cannot fundraise. We cannot collect petitions. This is about public health, this is about democracy. We should allow virtual petitions. My ballot fee is about $1,700. It can be compared to a poll tax. I’m making a heartfelt plea to Gov. DeSantis to allow virtual petitions. Let’s get this done. Let’s do the right thing.”

As of the 1:00 pm press conference, no word had been heard from the governor’s office or the Division of Elections, according to Banyai, who stated that court action against the deadline is being considered.

A question from The Paradise Progressive to the Division had not received an answer as of this posting.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg




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