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§ 99.097 Verification of signatures on petitions.

Overview of Statute

This statute outlines the permissible methods for verifying signatures on petitions, and lists reasons for why supervisors might not count signatures. The statute then outlines the process for contesting results of verification. Finally, it states that potential candidates who pay petition circulators may not say that they are unable to pay the supervisor of candidate for signature verification.

Statute

(1)

(a) As determined by each supervisor, based upon local conditions, the checking of names on petitions may be based on the most inexpensive and administratively feasible of either of the following methods of verification:

1. A check of each petition; or
2. A check of a random sample, as provided by the Department of State, of the petitions. The sample must be such that a determination can be made as to whether or not the required number of signatures has been obtained with a reliability of at least 99.5 percent.
(b) Rules and guidelines for petition verification shall be adopted by the Department of State. Rules and guidelines for a random sample method of verification may include a requirement that petitions bear an additional number of names and signatures, not to exceed 15 percent of the names and signatures otherwise required. If the petitions do not meet such criteria or if the petitions are prescribed by s. 100.371, the use of the random sample method of verification is not available to supervisors.
(2) When a petitioner submits petitions which contain at least 15 percent more than the required number of signatures, the petitioner may require that the supervisor of elections use the random sampling verification method in certifying the petition.
(3)
(a) If all other requirements for the petition are met, a signature on a petition shall be verified and counted as valid for a registered voter if, after comparing the signature on the petition and the signature of the registered voter in the voter registration system, the supervisor is able to determine that the petition signer is the same as the registered voter, even if the name on the petition is not in substantially the same form as in the voter registration system.
(b) In any situation in which this code requires the form of the petition to be prescribed by the division, no signature shall be counted toward the number of signatures required unless it is on a petition form prescribed by the division.
(c) If a voter signs a petition and lists an address other than the legal residence where the voter is registered, the supervisor shall treat the signature as if the voter had listed the address where the voter is registered.
(4) The supervisor shall be paid in advance the sum of 10 cents for each signature checked or the actual cost of checking such signature, whichever is less, by the candidate or, in the case of a petition to have an issue placed on the ballot, by the person or organization submitting the petition. However, if a candidate, person, or organization seeking to have an issue placed upon the ballot cannot pay such charges without imposing an undue burden on personal resources or upon the resources otherwise available to such candidate, person, or organization, such candidate, person, or organization shall, upon written certification of such inability given under oath to the supervisor, be entitled to have the signatures verified at no charge. In the event a candidate, person, or organization submitting a petition to have an issue placed upon the ballot is entitled to have the signatures verified at no charge, the supervisor of elections of each county in which the signatures are verified at no charge shall submit the total number of such signatures checked in the county to the Chief Financial Officer no later than December 1 of the general election year, and the Chief Financial Officer shall cause such supervisor of elections to be reimbursed from the General Revenue Fund in an amount equal to 10 cents for each name checked or the actual cost of checking such signatures, whichever is less. In no event shall such reimbursement of costs be deemed or applied as extra compensation for the supervisor. Petitions shall be retained by the supervisors for a period of 1 year following the election for which the petitions were circulated.
(5) The results of a verification pursuant to subparagraph (1)(a)2. may be contested in the circuit court by the candidate; an announced opponent; a representative of a designated political committee; or a person, party, or other organization submitting the petition. The contestant shall file a complaint, together with the fees prescribed in chapter 28, with the clerk of the circuit court in the county in which the petition is certified or in Leon County if the petition covers more than one county within 10 days after midnight of the date the petition is certified; and the complaint shall set forth the grounds on which the contestant intends to establish his or her right to require a complete check of the petition pursuant to subparagraph (1)(a)1. In the event the court orders a complete check of the petition and the result is not changed as to the success or lack of success of the petitioner in obtaining the requisite number of valid signatures, then such candidate, unless the candidate has filed the oath stating that he or she is unable to pay such charges; announced opponent; representative of a designated political committee; or party, person, or organization submitting the petition, unless such person or organization has filed the oath stating inability to pay such charges, shall pay to the supervisor of elections of each affected county for the complete check an amount calculated at the rate of 10 cents for each additional signature checked or the actual cost of checking such additional signatures, whichever is less.
(6)
(a) If any person is paid to solicit signatures on a petition, an undue burden oath may not subsequently be filed in lieu of paying the fee to have signatures verified for that petition.
(b) If an undue burden oath has been filed and payment is subsequently made to any person to solicit signatures on a petition, the undue burden oath is no longer valid and a fee for all signatures previously submitted to the supervisor of elections and any that are submitted thereafter shall be paid by the candidate, person, or organization that submitted the undue burden oath. If contributions as defined in s. 106.011 are received, any monetary contributions must first be used to reimburse the supervisor of elections for any signature verification fees that were not paid because of the filing of an undue burden oath.

History:

s. 2, ch. 76-233; s. 10, ch. 77-175; s. 2, ch. 80-20; s. 1, ch. 82-141; s. 13, ch. 89-338; s. 2, ch. 90-229; s. 12, ch. 90-315; s. 542, ch. 95-147; s. 21, ch. 97-13; s. 7, ch. 99-318; s. 109, ch. 2003-261; s. 19, ch. 2011-40.

Annotation: March 1, 2016 8:17 pm

Random sampling is not available for constitutional amendments proposed by initiative. The Florida Constitution requires signatures of at least 8% of the state’s registered voters. Since random sampling allows a slight inaccuracy of up to .05%, the constitutional mandate cannot be assured.

Definition [Contribution]

(a) A gift, subscription, conveyance, deposit, loan, payment, or distribution of money or anything of value, including contributions in kind having an attributable monetary value in any form, made for the purpose of influencing the results of an election or making an electioneering communication.

(b) A transfer of funds between political committees, between electioneering communications organizations, or between any combination of these groups.

(c) The payment, by a person other than a candidate or political committee, of compensation for the personal services of another person which are rendered to a candidate or political committee without charge to the candidate or committee for such services.

(d) The transfer of funds by a campaign treasurer or deputy campaign treasurer between a primary depository and a separate interest-bearing account or certificate of deposit, and the term includes interest earned on such account or certificate.

Notwithstanding the foregoing meanings of “contribution,” the term may not be construed to include services, including, but not limited to, legal and accounting services, provided without compensation by individuals volunteering a portion or all of their time on behalf of a candidate or political committee or editorial endorsements. Fla. Stat. § 106.011(5).

Definition [General Election]

An election held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November in the even-numbered years, for the purpose of filling national, state, county, and district offices and for voting on constitutional amendments not otherwise provided for by law. Fla. Stat. § 97.021(16).

Definition [Political Committee]

1. A combination of two or more individuals, or a person other than an individual, that, in an aggregate amount in excess of $500 during a single calendar year:

a. Accepts contributions for the purpose of making contributions to any candidate, political committee, affiliated party committee, or political party;

b. Accepts contributions for the purpose of expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate or the passage or defeat of an issue;

c. Makes expenditures that expressly advocate the election or defeat of a candidate or the passage or defeat of an issue; or

d. Makes contributions to a common fund, other than a joint checking account between spouses, from which contributions are made to any candidate, political committee, affiliated party committee, or political party;

2. The sponsor of a proposed constitutional amendment by initiative who intends to seek the signatures of registered electors.

(b) Notwithstanding paragraph (a), the following entities are not considered political committees for purposes of this chapter:

1. National political parties, the state and county executive committees of political parties, and affiliated party committees regulated by chapter 103.

2. Corporations regulated by chapter 607 or chapter 617 or other business entities formed for purposes other than to support or oppose issues or candidates, if their political activities are limited to contributions to candidates, political parties, affiliated party committees, or political committees or expenditures in support of or opposition to an issue from corporate or business funds and if no contributions are received by such corporations or business entities.

3. Electioneering communications organizations as defined in subsection (9). Fla. Stat. § 106.11(16).

 

Definition [Issue]

A proposition that is required by the State Constitution, by law or resolution of the Legislature, or by the charter, ordinance, or resolution of a political subdivision of this state to be submitted to the electors for their approval or rejection at an election, or a proposition for which a petition is circulated in order to have such proposition placed on the ballot at an election. Fla. Stat. § 106.011(13).

Definition [Ballot]

As used in the Electronic Voting Systems Act, ballot means the card, tape, or other vehicle upon which the elector’s choices are recorded. Fla. Stat. § 101.5603(2).

Definition [Person]

An individual or a corporation, association, firm, partnership, joint venture, joint stock company, club, organization, estate, trust, business trust, syndicate, or other combination of individuals having collective capacity. The term includes a political party, affiliated party committee, or political committee. Fla. Stat. § 106.011(14).

Definition [Election]

Any primary election, special primary election, special election, general election, or presidential preference primary election. Fla. Stat. § 97.021(12).

Definition [Candidate]

Any person to whom any one or more of the following applies:

(a) Any person who seeks to qualify for nomination or election by means of the petitioning process.
(b) Any person who seeks to qualify for election as a write-in candidate.
(c) Any person who receives contributions or makes expenditures, or gives his or her consent for any other person to receive contributions or make expenditures, with a view to bringing about his or her nomination or election to, or retention in, public office.
(d) Any person who appoints a treasurer and designates a primary depository.
(e) Any person who files qualification papers and subscribes to a candidate’s oath as required by law.
This definition does not include any candidate for a political party executive committee. Fla. Stat. § 97.021(6).

Cases

Florida Cases

Out-of-State Cases

Case State: florida

Case Name: Browning v. Florida Hometown Democracy, Inc., PAC

Citation: 29 So.3d 1053

Year: 2010

Case URL: https://www.ravellaw.com/opinions/ad43c65c3746d76b166d523a4c8ba372?query=29%20So[...]

Case Summary: Browning v. Florida Hometown Democracy, Inc., PAC held that the statute establishing petition signature revocation procedures violated the citizen initiative provision of the state constitution and as such were unconstitutional, since it was neither neutral nor nondiscriminatory, nor was it necessary to ensure ballot integrity. The case further held that the state supreme court had mandatory appellate jurisdiction because the district court of appeal implemented regulations that impacted the citizen initiative process.

Federal Cases

Case Name: U.S. Taxpayers Party of Florida v. Smith

Citation: 871 F.Supp. 426

Federal District Court: Northern District of Florida

Year: 1993

Case URL: https://www.ravellaw.com/opinions/5500ccf8b5189a65032711e716c08695?query=U.S.%20[...]

Case Summary: U.S. Taxpayers Party of Florida v. Smith held that the statutes requiring minor parties to file signatures by specified deadlines were not unconstitutional, since Florida had an interest in an early deadline to be able to prepare ballots and verify signatures, and the statutes were necessary to further that interest.

Case Name: Clean Up ’84 v. Heinrich

Citation: 759 F.2d 1511

Federal Circuit Court: 11th Circuit Court

Year: 1985

Case URL: https://www.ravellaw.com/opinions/e581e370bd810b11cab080e163077ef9?query=Clean%2[...]

Case Summary: Clean Up '84 v. Heinrich held that a Florida statute prohibiting solicitation of signatures for petitions within 100 yards of a polling place on election day was facially unconstitutionally over-broad.

Regulations & Guidance

Additional Resources

Further Reading

  • Fla. Jur. 2d Elections s 88, Qualification without payment of fees and assessments; petition process

  • Fla. Jur. 2d Elections s 233, Procedural matters

  • Fla. Jur. 2d Elections s 234, Constitutional amendments

  • Nichols Cyclopedia of Legal Forms Annotated s 156:10, Verification of petition signatures-Agency procedure and prerequisites