After five weeks, the City of Orlando has yet to respond to Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles’ concerns about the city’s municipal election plan for 2016.
“We have not yet responded to Cowles’ letter as we are researching whether the State’s change of date may impose any legal impediments or any other implications to the City’s already established date,” City spokesperson Cassandra Lafser said late last week. The established date for Orlando’s municipal election is the first Tuesday in April.
While the City may not be clear about what will happen regarding an election now less than one year away, the actual elected Supervisor of Elections is absolutely clear. In a letter to the City from Supervisor Cowles’ general counsel, “the Supervisor of Elections would be unable to properly conduct both elections, with the state-mandated Presidential Preference Primary clearly taking priority.”
The Supervisor of Elections also detailed major concerns and potential voting problems related to absentee ballots, early voting and general voter confusion. It remains unclear what the Dyer administration may still be researching after the elected Supervisor of Elections weighed in. The letter from Supervisor Cowles’ general counsel also serves as a line in the sand with little room for the Supervisor to backtrack without significant concern from voters.
The Orlando Sentinel also picked up the story two weeks ago after the news was first reported on this site.
There’s also the question of turnout: Will voters really go to the polls twice in three weeks?
“It’s a very unusual process, and the average voter is not going to respond well to this,” said Mike Cantone, a community organizer and Dyer critic who ran against him in 2012.
The Sentinel even followed up on their story with an editorial explaining “why we think Orlando’s City Council should move next year’s municipal election date,” adding even more pressure to the Dyer administration to propose a change for 2016.
Complicating matters further is the issue of time. Already, the 2016 Orlando municipal elections are scheduled to take place in less than a year. Potential local candidates are not only making campaign plans, some have already been going to the City Clerk to pick up official information since January according to an email from City Clerk Alana Brenner to the Supervisor of Elections. One candidate for City Commissioner, Alex Rivera, has already filed initial paperwork and appointed a treasurer in City District 2, the seat of incumbent Commissioner Tony Ortiz.
Now is the time to settle next year’s municipal election date.
In February, former Orange County Democratic Party Chair Doug Head described more of the background regarding the election date mess in the West Orlando News.
The City Council will need to act to ensure the integrity of the municipal election, to prevent voter confusion and to increase voter participation. It is an easy answer, but seems to be a tough pill for City Hall to swallow for some reason.