Broward County Supervisor of Elections Joe Scott says Gov. Ron DeSantis should reconsider the Special Election dates for the contest in Florida’s 20th Congressional District, arguing the Governor is ignoring multiple issues with the dates he announced Tuesday — and shirking the opinion of his own Division of Elections.
Scott said he and Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections Wendy Link were prepared to hold the CD 20 Primary Election on Aug. 31 followed by a Nov. 2 General Election. CD 20 runs across Broward and Palm Beach counties, spanning several majority-Black areas near major cities such as Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.
But Tuesday, DeSantis announced the Primary Election would take place on Nov. 2, followed by a Jan. 11 General Election. That means the seat, vacated by the late U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, would go unfilled for more than nine months — far longer than recent congressional vacancies in the state.
Scott said he attempted to reach out to DeSantis about his concerns with the proposed dates.
“I called the Governor’s office yesterday. I have not heard back,” Scott told Florida Politics Wednesday. “The dates are extremely problematic and uncalled for. The dates that we are planning for would work so much better, and there’s just no good reason not to go along with them other than politics.”
DeSantis explained his reasoning in part during Tuesday’s announcement.
“There’s a lot that goes into it,” the Governor said of the Special Election. “I know there will be a lot of folks that want to run for it. So hopefully that gives them enough time to be able to get on the ballot and do whatever they need to do to be competitive.”
DeSantis also said the state coordinated with the Supervisor of Election offices in both Broward and Palm Beach before his decision.
Among Scott’s chief concerns are additional Special Elections, which will be needed for state lawmakers who have jumped into the CD 20 contest. Florida’s resign-to-run law requires those lawmakers to leave their state Senate and House seats.
State Sen. Perry Thurston and state Reps. Bobby DuBose and Omari Hardy have already declared their CD 20 candidacies. State Sen. Bobby Powell is strongly considering a run as well. That’s four legislative seats — all held by Black lawmakers — that would need to be filled in addition to Hastings’ seat.
“It’s really important that we have those elections simultaneously,” Scott said. “We don’t want to waste money having multiple elections.”
But the 2022 Legislative Session is scheduled to begin Jan. 11. That causes complications if the CD 20 Special Election and all additional replacement elections are all held together on Jan. 11. That date means those legislative seats would remain open right up to the beginning of the 2022 Session, and successors won’t participate in any pre-Session work such as committee hearings and preparing legislation.
“We want to make sure the legislators who are representing our communities are confirmed, prepared and have the time that they need to get there and be effective legislators,” Scott explained.
DeSantis did not say Tuesday whether those elections would be held together, and it’s possible they could run on a different timeline. But Scott said separate elections would be unnecessarily costly.
Scott also argued that an August to November timeline would lead to more voter participation.
“People are used to having their primary in August and their General Election in November, and we have more than enough time to do all the planning and preparation that we need for those dates,” Scott said.
“We have everything lined up. We are totally prepared to have these elections on Aug. 31 and Nov. 2. That would be even longer than what we’ve sometimes seen in the past in terms of how long we usually leave a congressional seat open.”
Scott is correct. When former U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler resigned his House seat, effective Jan. 2010, it remained open for three months before being filled. After the 2013 death of U.S. Rep. Bill Young, that seat sat open for five months.
DeSantis’ decision plays into concerns from congressional Democrats that the Governor might drag out the Special Election. Those Democrats have argued someone of Hastings’ stature — a revered member of the Black community who was among the first Black House members representing Florida — deserves a swift replacement to carry on his work. Democrats also have just a six-vote majority in the House. That slim margin could jeopardize some parts of the Democrats’ agenda.
Scott said he and Link’s offices coordinated with the Division of Elections on the Special Election timeline. In those April conversations, Scott said Division officials expressed concern with a proposed Jan. 11 date because early voting would begin on New Year’s Day.
“We clearly communicated what we wanted through the Division of Elections. The Division of Elections agreed,” he said.
Florida Politics has reached out to the Division and the Governor’s office for comment on whether the Division agreed with Scott’s timeline. They did not immediately respond. A request for comment to Supervisor Link’s office is also pending, though previous reporting has shown her office supported an earlier set of election dates.
As Scott’s office worked with state officials following Hastings’ April death, Scott said multiple dates were floated due to concerns about implementing the then-existing version of the state’s election reform law, along with other issues. But as that law was pared down, making implementation easier, Scott said his office was more confident in the August to November timeline.
“As those problems got resolved, we felt more comfortable with those earlier dates,” Scott explained.
Scott told Florida Politics he believed DeSantis would acquiesce to the timeline before Tuesday, but he said the Governor’s office did not communicate with him about the final decision ahead of Tuesday’s announcement.
“We heard it as he announced it,” Scott said. “(His announcement) had all of us who had been working on this throwing up our hands, like, ‘what happened?'”
Scott said he’s still hoping to get an explanation from the Governor’s office.
“We can’t really get any information from Tallahassee, and that’s what makes me feel like it’s potentially a political thing, because we just can’t get an answer about what happened after we did all this planning and all this coordination.”
Scott told Florida Politics his office is prepared to go forward should DeSantis change his mind.
“Until we get an order from the Governor, we’re still hoping that he will reconsider and will consider the dates that we have proposed,” Scott said.
“We’re wondering if maybe there was some kind of miscommunication. Is he not aware of all the coordination and discussion that went into the dates that we finally landed on? Maybe he doesn’t know.”