Gainesville city commissioners discuss special election date

Gainesville city commissioners discuss special election date
Published: Aug. 26, 2021 at 5:11 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -In Gainesville’s charter, a special election is required within 60 days of a city commission vacancy.

Although, the logistics of conducting the special election have to follow strict deadlines starting with commissioner Gail Johnson’s last day in office.

“And the problems we have of course is that between now and 60 days from the end of September, we have several holidays we need to be cognizant of,” said City of Gainesville Attorney Daniel Nee.

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Commissioners have to decide whether or not to have early voting, a run-off election and how many precincts to open during the election. All of these answers have to be juggled with the Supervisor of Election’s office turnaround time. Commissioners are considering choosing an election day of November 16 with a run-off election during the first week of January or an election day of November 2 with a run-off election six weeks after.

“It is a rather unusual situation and we’d be out running into a run-off election six weeks after the general election,” said Nee. “With the general election sometime in November, then we’re bouncing right into Christmas and Hanukkah and other holidays as well. Which might make not only operation of the election difficult but certainly will affect turn out.”

Commissioners couldn’t vote on setting their election day in their general policy workshop. City staff has to discuss with Elections Supervisor Kim Barton before bringing recommendations back to commissioners at their next meeting.

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“Her budget doesn’t provide for any of this so she would be sending us a bill in advance,” mentioned Nee.

Commissioners still have to vote on the logistics surrounding a special election like setting a day to vote, setting a day for a runoff. This special election comes at a cost. The idea to have a run-off election, open as many voting precincts as the Supervisor of Election’s office can staff and request mail-in ballots for all registered voters was discussed. All of these factors increase the potential cost of the special election.

“I think our costs to the supervisor were in the range of 193 to 196 thousand dollars plus whatever costs we incur so there will be a cost factor attributed to the election,” said Nee. “And to the extent of that might be lessened based on decisions made by the commission.”

Election Supervisor Barton is invited to join city commissioners at their next meeting on Sept. 2 to clarify her office’s capabilities in holding this special election in a time crunch.

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