Municipal elections in Pasco County were supposed to take place April 14, but instead are delayed indefinitely per an executive order from Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The action was taken in the wake of coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19).
The elections for the cities of Dade City, San Antonio and Zephyrhills will be rescheduled “as soon as is practicable,” Executive Order 20-97 states.
The governor’s order says the election postponement is necessary “in order to ensure maximum citizen participation in the electoral process and provide a safe and orderly procedure for persons seeking to exercise their right to vote, to minimize citizen exposure to danger during this emergency, and to protect the integrity of the electoral process.”
The initial request to delay the local city elections came from Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley, who cited the “health and safety” of voters and poll workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Pasco was the first county in the state to request such a delay.
Corley had ongoing discussions on the matter with intermediaries Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee, State Division of Elections Director Maria Matthews and incoming Senate president Wilton Simpson.
The elections supervisor made the request on behalf of the municipalities April 2. The governor’s executive order was issued April 8.
“I’m very pleased and appreciate the governor moving as expeditiously as he did,” Corley told The Laker/Lutz News. “I think the governor made a really good decision to look out for the citizens and the voters.”
As for a new date, Corley said the elections office is “very, very tentatively” eyeing sometime in June as a possibility to hold the municipal elections.
The elections supervisor previously called for those elections to be held on the Aug. 18 state primary election date.
However, Corley pointed out that could prove problematic for multiple reasons.
Here’s why: The elections office would have to find a way to create separate ballots for those who already voted by mail in the municipal elections, so those voters don’t accidentally or deliberately vote twice for those elections. Another scenario would have been to just discount all vote-by-mail ballots already collected, which may not be viewed as legitimate in the eyes of voters and candidates.
With that, Corley noted “it’s a lot cleaner” to just hold those municipal elections at a date sometime before the primary — coordinating with the cities and polling places.
The county elections office has since reopened vote-by-mail requests, and is encouraging voters to use that method for convenience and safety sake. People can do so by visiting PascoVotes.gov.
“I can tell you, if you vote by mail, you can make sure your vote counts, your voice counts,” Corley said.
Meanwhile, the election delay ultimately could result in higher turnout for the city elections, Corley said, as more time has been given to citizens register to vote or request a vote-by-mail ballot.
The prospect of that is “exciting for the cities” and “seems to me like a win-win,” Corley said.
In Dade City, six candidates are running for three open seats on the Dade City Commission — for Groups 3, 4 and 5.
In San Antonio, five candidates are vying to fill three open seats on the San Antonio City Commission.
In the City of Zephyrhills there are two races on the ballot. One is for mayor and the other for District 2.
For more information, visit PascoVotes.gov, or call (800) 851-8754.
Published April 15, 2020