With just one week until freshman House Republicans are scheduled to vote for their leader, it appears lawmakers have agreed upon rules governing the election.
According to a copy of the rules obtained by FloridaPolitics.com, members will not be allowed to abstain from the vote; discussion between members between the announcement of the eliminated candidate and the next vote will be prohibited; and “the vote count will not be disclosed under any circumstances prior to the final vote.”
The 27-member freshman Republican caucus is scheduled to hold a meeting on June 30 in Orlando to vote for the class leader, and likely House Speaker beginning in 2022. Four candidates — Byron Donalds, Erin Grall, Jamie Grant and Paul Renner — have announced their candidacy, with Grant and Renner believed to be the leading contenders.
Unlike traditional Speaker’s races, the class has agreed to hold a vote by secret ballot. The election is being coordinated by Rep. Larry Metz, the chairman of the House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee, and House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues.
Establishing the rules for the election has not been an easy process.
“I can’t believe we’re still going through this kind of stuff,” Rep. Sam Killebrew wrote this week in an email to his colleagues.”
According to the rules, all 27 members of the class shall participate in selecting the class leader and “shall vote in each round of the process.” The rules note that “abstentions are not permitted,” however they do not say what, if any, penalties there are for abstaining.
A majority of the class, or 14 members, is needed in order for any member to be selected as leader. Under the rules agreed to by the candidates, “should any member be absent and unable to call in his/her vote due to an emergency in which communication with the member is impossible, the candidates will agree to the terms of extending the time frame of the race prior to leaving the meeting and each candidate will commit to compliance with said terms.”
In order to preserve the procedures for a secret ballot, the candidates have agreed not to solicit or accept pledge cards prior to the secret ballot and, according to the rules, will discourage members from making “election day declarations through print, social media or at any time during the secret ballot process.”
“Failure to adhere to the prohibition on collecting pledge cards prior to the secret ballot vote,” according to the rules, “will result in the disqualification of the candidate for whom the pledge cards were collected.”
Under the rules, members who can’t attend the meeting should deliver their votes to Metz or Rodrigues between “8 a.m. and noon” on June 30. The rules encourage them to call Rodrigues or Metz directly and allow either to record their “preference for Speaker in ranked order.”
Members who can attend the meeting will be asked to turn off any electronic devices and deposit them in a “box to be secured” by Rodrigues or Metz. No outside communication is allowed during the entirety of the meeting.
The meeting is set to begin at noon, with 10 minute speeches from each candidate. Members will then have time for questions and answers, before candidates are given 5 minutes for closing statements. After closing statements, voting is set to begin.
The rules spell out a protocol that eliminates the lowest vote-getter until one candidate receives a majority of the votes.
According to the protocol, Rodrigues and Metz will collect all of the ballots. The vote count, according to the rules, “will not be disclosed under any circumstances prior to the final vote.” The rules also state that “there will be no discussion between members between the announcement of the eliminated candidate and the next vote and members will be asked to remain in his/her seat during this time between voting rounds.”
Under the rules, if any candidate receives a majority of votes at any time, “no further ballots will be required.” Once that occurs, everyone in the room will be informed that a candidate appears to have a majority of the votes. The remaining candidates, according to the rules, “will verify the results of the count under the supervision of the Majority Leader and the Public Ethics and Integrity Chair.” Once the vote count is verified by the presiding officers and candidates, the rules state “the winner will be declared.”