Six Democratic candidates for Congress in Florida called on Gov. Ron DeSantis to extend the deadline to qualify by petition.
“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,” a letter from the candidates reads.
The request comes from candidates Adam Christensen in Florida’s 3rd Congressional District, Kimberly Walker in the 12th Congressional District, Allen Ellison in the 17th Congressional District, Cindy Banyai in Florida’s 19th Congressional District, and Sakina Lehtola and Christine Olivo in the 24th District.
All are running in Republican-held districts and are largely underfunded.
But such grassroots efforts are the ones who rely on the petition method of qualification the most.
And while this letter came from a group of Democratic candidates, pols in both parties have raised concerns about meeting petition deadlines.
Candidates for federal office must meet the qualification deadline by March 23, five days from now. But since the first case of coronavirus was detected in Florida, the process of gathering petition cards in public spaces has grown more challenging by the day.
To qualify via petition, candidates must get valid signatures from 1% of the voters in their district. For example, in the 19th Congressional District, that means Banyai must collect 5,052 signatures.
Candidates who fail to qualify by petition can pay a qualifying fee of $10,440 to run for Congress. That’s more than many candidates have, according to Federal Election Commission reports.
Banyai reported $10,889 in cash on hand at the end of 2019. Lehtola had $2,955. Ellison reported $297. Walker reported $209. Christensen and Olivo did not meet the threshold to submit reports at all.
“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,” the letter reads. “The Division of Elections needs to step up and allow enough time for candidates to strategize about the next steps for their campaigns.”
The candidates ask for 30 days once Floridians can safely return to public activities.
“With the utmost concern for our citizens and our country, we know you will act on this immediately,” the letter to DeSantis states.