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Guest Commentary

Let the Voters Decide!

The League of Women Voters of Manatee County response to the Supervisor of Elections decision not to hold an election for School Board District 5


The League of Women Voters envisions a democracy where citizens have the right and ability to determine who represents them on governing bodies. On May 7, the League sent a letter to Supervisor of Elections James Satcher requesting assurance that a District 5 School Board election would be on the 2024 ballot. This is based on the pending resignation of Manatee School Board member Richard Tatem so that he could qualify to run for another office.

The Florida constitution in Article 4 Section 1(f) requires that if there is more than 28 months left in an officeholder’s term, an election be held and if there is less than 28 months, the Governor appoints the replacement. In Article 10 Section 3, the constitution says:

“Vacancy in office shall occur upon the creation of an office, upon the death, removal from office, or resignation of the incumbent or the incumbent’s succession to another office, unexplained absence for sixty consecutive days, or failure to maintain the residence required when elected or appointed, and upon failure of one elected or appointed to office to qualify within thirty days from the commencement of the term.”

When asked to clarify the date used to determine the 28 month span, the FL Supreme Court advisory opinion (928 So.2d 1218, Supreme Court of Florida), determined that the remainder of the term for elected county officials should be calculated from the date the resignation letter is tendered, not the date when the incumbent intends to vacate the office. Mr. Tatem submitted his resignation on May 31 2024, so there is more than 28 months left in Tatem's term on the school board, although he does not intend to vacate the office until November 5. The FL Supreme Court opinion dictates that the position must be included in the August/November election cycle in Manatee County.

This request for an election has been denied, barring the voters in District 5 from having their say in who represents them on the School Board of Manatee County.

Reason to deny an election

In a letter addressed to “To Whom It May Concern”, Supervisor Satcher attached an unsigned opinion that the District 5 position was to be filled by appointment, relying on a 2021 statute Florida 99.012 (3)(f),

“The office is deemed vacant upon the effective date of the resignation submitted by the official in his or her letter of resignation.” 

It is unclear to a layman that this fixes the date the resignation is submitted or the date the office is vacated in order to determine the 28 months.

Lawsuit Necessary

In the opinion proffered by Satcher, although the decision of the Florida Supreme Court is that the date the resignation is submitted, they interpret the 2021 statute to change the date used set based on the date the office is vacated based on Florida 99.012 (3)(f).

A statutory change does not supersede the constitutional requirement that there be a special election if there are 28 or more months left in the term, nor does a statute supersede the Florida Supreme Court's interpretation that the date used should be the date of the letter of resignation.

The opinion proffered by Satcher freely admits that the position the county is taking has not been tested in court.  “The 2021 Resign-to-Run Law has not been reviewed and declared invalid by any court. Those amendments are therefore entitled to a presumption of validity.”

It appears the Supervisor of Elections is relying on their interpretation not being challenged or that perhaps they might get a different opinion than the prior Supreme Court opinion if this decision is challenged in court.

The entire Purpose of the Resign-to-Run rule is negated if this decision is allowed to stand.

The Resign-to-Run law is so that voters can decide who represents them. If the current interpretation is allowed to stand, every officeholder who wants to run for another position and has not completed their current term can merely resign the required 10 days before the last date to qualify for office but declare they will vacate the office the day before the election.

If the officeholder fails to win the new office, the Governor can re-appoint the current officeholder, in this case, Mr. Tatem. If the officeholder wins the new position, the Governor appoints the successor. Either way, the voters will never have a chance to vote for who represents them. 

Where we are now

Three individuals filed with the Supervisor of Elections office to run for the District 5 School Board Seat. The League of Women Voters of Manatee County has been advised that Reverend James Golden, who has filed to fun, has obtained council and intends to mount a legal challenge.

The League encourages voters to voice their disapproval of the decision to our Supervisor of Elections and passed by our Florida legislators in 2021.

We remind our Supervisor of Elections and legislators of the US Constitution, “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Let the Voters Decide!


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  • WTF

    This is deserving of a lawsuit. SOE is way out of bounds on this decision

    Sounds like Satcher is practicing law without a license.

    He needs his ass handed to him in court before we give him the boot in November

    Worst choice by DeSantis ever!

    Saturday, June 15 Report this