Democratic nominee Paul Chandler‘s stealth resignation from the special election for Florida House 44, combined with Hurricane Irma, might have already given the election victory to Republican nominee Bobby Olszewski.
Chandler filed his resignation Friday, but the Florida Secretary of State’s office was closed Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday because of Hurricane Irma. So the resignation was not noticed until Wednesday. The Florida Division of Elections posted it Wednesday, and notified elections and party officials that Chandler was out.
If a political party wants to replace a candidate who withdraws, the party has five days to do so, under Florida law. The candidate then has two days to qualify for the ballot.
The election is Oct. 10. Some absentee ballots already have been filled out. Democrats are trying to organize a meeting to pick a replacement candidate. If it all works out for them, voters in HD 44 would be notified that a vote for Chandler will be counted as a vote for the replacement nominee.
But does the five-day period for that selection, followed by two days for the new candidate to qualify, begin when Chandler notified the state, or when the state notified the party? Saturday. Sunday. Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday. Does that count?
Orange County Democratic Chairman Wes Hodge said he is confident the clock began ticking when the party was notified, on Wednesday. That is when he and Florida Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Bittel received notification from the Florida Secretary of State’s office of Chandler’s resignation, and the notification stated that the county party has until Sept. 20 to select and qualify a replacement candidate.
Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles said he is researching the matter with officials from Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner’s office but does not have an answer. Traditionally, he said, official correspondence are not considered delivered if they arrive on a day the office is closed, but the law does not specify “business days” or indicate that the department actually has to open the letter before the clock starts.
Olszewski had no comment, except for a written statement about Chandler’s resignation.
“First and foremost my thoughts and prayers are with our state as together we recover from Hurricane Irma. Once our community regains a sense of normalcy in the coming days, nothing changes for us, regardless of what’s happening with Mr. Chandler or other candidates,” Oslzewski stated. “We are going to continue to focus on speaking with as many voters as we possibly can between now and Election Day and listening to what they want to see out of their next State Representative and how we can work together to improve our community and our state.”