House panel approves partisan School Board races ballot measure

'There are real differences in party platforms.'

Florida voters could get the option to make School Board races partisan again, after a bill (HJR 31) to place the question on the 2024 ballot passed through the House Ethics, Elections and Open Government Subcommittee.

Rep. Spencer Roach, a North Fort Myers Republican sponsoring the bill, argued voters should have all the information about candidates, including their party affiliation, when they step into the ballot box.

“There are real differences in party platforms on where they are on school curriculum, where they are on school choice, where they are on bathroom issues and where they are on young boys playing on girls’ sports teams,” Roach said.

The vote was 12-5 on party lines, with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed.

Democrats on the panel noted that voters had already made the switch to nonpartisan School Board elections in 1998 and argued going back to partisan elections would disenfranchise no-party voters and voters of minor parties, since they aren’t able to vote in Republican or Democratic Primaries.

“You have a quarter of NPA parents that, we are trying to take their voice away and the vote away,” said Rep. LaVon Bracy Davis, an Ocoee Democrat.

Roach said the 1998 ballot measure included other issues, so voters might not have been voting solely on the School Board partisanship issue when they cast their vote and said his bill would just put the issue back before voters.

“You’re voting on who gets to decide,” Roach said. “You’re voting to allow the voters to make that choice.”

If the measure passes both chambers of the Legislature, 60% of voters in 2024 would have to approve it for it to take effect.

The panel approved another bill (HB 411) which would push back the deadline for a School Board candidate to move into the district they wish to represent. Currently, candidates have to live in the district by the time they qualify for office. The bill would move that back to when the candidate takes office.

Rep. Kevin Steele, a Dade City Republican and sponsor of the bill, pointed to an incident in his native Pasco County in which Al Hernandez was initially disqualified from the ballot by a lower court because he didn’t live in the district.

Hernandez originally lived in Odessa but bought a home in Zephyrhills in April 2022, in the District 1 area he intended to serve. The home, though, had mold issues and Hernandez lived elsewhere in June 2022 during the qualifying period while the home was being renovated. The ruling was overturned on appeal and Hernandez won the election.

The measure passed on a 14-4 vote with Rep. Kristen Arrington of Kissimmee the only Democrat to join Republicans in support.

Gray Rohrer

One comment

  • Rob Desantos

    March 8, 2023 at 3:36 pm

    GOP roaches just want more of their dark money flowing into these primary races

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn