In a Bipartisan Effort, Florida Candidates Are Fighting for A More Viable Resolution on the Ballot Access Issue

The emergency ruling on the ballot initiative has left candidates with more questions than answer. They are calling on Governor DeSantis and Secretary Lee to address their remaining concerns.

On Friday, April 3, 2020, Secretary of State Lee issued an emergency ruling in response to a coalition of candidates’ concerns about the upcoming qualifications for the primary election. Candidates across race and party lines came together to request that the qualifications for the primary ballot be examined amid the growing pandemic. While this emergency ruling is an excellent first step toward a fair and safe election, the same coalition is again calling on the Governor and Secretary to address lingering questions.

The emergency ruling allows for petition signatures to be collected digitally, hoping to decrease the face-to-face contact that would normally be involved with collecting signatures. However, the ruling did not address the issues of deadlines. For congressional candidates, this is of utmost concern because their deadline for turning in signatures has passed.

Allen Ellison, candidate for US House of Representatives, stated that “this pandemic has adversely impacted all of us and in times like these, when politics should cease, justice and fairness for all should be paramount and the sanctity of our democracy must prevail. The State of Florida’s ballot process has always hindered candidates from low socioeconomic backgrounds. These candidates, more often than not, have a very strong sense of where people are in the struggles of life and provide a great deal of perspective and solution-oriented policies that bring about positive change. Huge ballot fees, excessive petition requirements, and unscrupulous rejection of those petitions make it nearly impossible to complete within the give time frame. Executive inaction on these issues makes me realize why we should not engage in business as usual during these extraordinary times.”

Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo released the following statement: “The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we campaign. We need to modernize our systems to ensure our campaigns and elections are safe. Over a week ago we requested simple modifications from the Secretary and while she took a step today — it’s not far enough. Our state can do more to protect our democracy and make it easier for people to participate. In addition to allowing petitions to be circulated and collected digitally, Secretary Lee should also extend the deadline as we originally requested.”

Dr. Cindy Banyai, one of the co-sponsors of the initiative, said: “We appreciate Secretary Lee addressing the ballot requirement issue, but given the extraordinary circumstances created by the pandemic more needs to be done to ensure candidates can get on the ballot and voters in the State of Florida have a choice in August.” That is why in addition to allowing candidates to gather signatures digitally the coalition is asking the governor and secretary to extend the signature deadline 45 days past their original deadlines and to reduce the filing fee and the number of signatures required to 30% of their original numbers for all candidates in all races.

Michael Bluemling, Jr, the Republican co-sponsor stated, “In difficult times like these, I call on great leadership from the State of Florida, to ensure the 2020 election remains a fair election for both candidates and voters. Governor DeSantis, the future of this great nation is at hand and we have the opportunity to allow freedom to ring in our great Sunshine State without corruption.”

Banyai and Bluemling will be hosting a virtual press conference on the issue on Tuesday, April 7 at 3:00 pm. Please follow this link to register and view the virtual press conference.

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