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florida > The Florida Election Code > Qualification And Registration Of ElectorsGeneral Provisions

§ 97.012 Secretary of State as chief election officer.

Overview of Statute

This statute states that the Secretary of State is the chief election officer in Florida and provides an overview of his/her duties as the chief election officer.

Statute

The Secretary of State is the chief election officer of the state, and it is his or her responsibility to:

(1) Obtain and maintain uniformity in the interpretation and implementation of the election laws. In order to obtain and maintain uniformity in the interpretation and implementation of the election laws, the Department of State may, pursuant to ss. 120.536(1) and 120.54, adopt by rule uniform standards for the proper and equitable interpretation and implementation of the requirements of chapters 97-102 and chapter 105 of the Election Code.
(2) Provide uniform standards for the proper and equitable implementation of the registration laws by administrative rule of the Department of State adopted pursuant to ss. 120.536(1) and120.54.
(3) Actively seek out and collect the data and statistics necessary to knowledgeably scrutinize the effectiveness of election laws.
(4) Provide technical assistance to the supervisors of elections on voter education and election personnel training services.
(5) Provide technical assistance to the supervisors of elections on voting systems.
(6) Provide voter education assistance to the public.
(7) Coordinate the state’s responsibilities under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.
(8) Provide training to all affected state agencies on the necessary procedures for proper implementation of this chapter.
(9) Ensure that all registration applications and forms prescribed or approved by the department are in compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.
(10) Coordinate with the United States Department of Defense so that armed forces recruitment offices administer voter registration in a manner consistent with the procedures set forth in this code for voter registration agencies.
(11) Create and administer a statewide voter registration system as required by the Help America Vote Act of 2002. The secretary may delegate voter registration duties and records maintenance activities to voter registration officials. Any responsibilities delegated by the secretary shall be performed in accordance with state and federal law.
(12) Maintain a voter fraud hotline and provide election fraud education to the public.
(13) Designate an office within the department to be responsible for providing information regarding voter registration procedures and vote-by-mail ballot procedures to absent uniformed services voters and overseas voters.
(14) Bring and maintain such actions at law or in equity by mandamus or injunction to enforce the performance of any duties of a county supervisor of elections or any official performing duties with respect to chapters 97-102 and chapter 105 or to enforce compliance with a rule of the Department of State adopted to interpret or implement any of those chapters.
(a) Venue for such actions shall be in the Circuit Court of Leon County.
(b) When the secretary files an action under this section and not more than 60 days remain before an election as defined in s. 97.021, or during the time period after the election and before certification of the election pursuant to s. 102.112 or s. 102.121, the court, including an appellate court, shall set an immediate hearing, giving the case priority over other pending cases.
(c) Prior to filing an action to enforce performance of the duties of the supervisor of elections or any official described in this subsection, the secretary or his or her designee first must confer, or must make a good faith attempt to confer, with the supervisor of elections or the official to ensure compliance with chapters 97-102 and chapter 105 or the rules of the Department of State adopted under any of those chapters.
(15) Conduct preliminary investigations into any irregularities or fraud involving voter registration, voting, candidate petition, or issue petition activities and report his or her findings to the statewide prosecutor or the state attorney for the judicial circuit in which the alleged violation occurred for prosecution, if warranted. The Department of State may prescribe by rule requirements for filing an elections-fraud complaint and for investigating any such complaint.
(16) Provide written direction and opinions to the supervisors of elections on the performance of their official duties with respect to the Florida Election Code or rules adopted by the Department of State.

History:

s. 1, ch. 75-98; s. 21, ch. 84-302; s. 2, ch. 89-348; s. 1, ch. 90-315; s. 2, ch. 94-224; s. 1381, ch. 95-147; s. 34, ch. 97-13; s. 1, ch. 98-129; s. 1, ch. 2003-415; s. 1, ch. 2005-277; s. 1, ch. 2005-278; s. 1, ch. 2008-95; s. 1, ch. 2011-40; s. 1, ch. 2016-37.

Definition [Department]

The Department of State.

Definition [Supervisor]

The supervisor of elections.

Definition [Voting System]
A method of casting and processing votes that functions wholly or partly by use of electromechanical or electronic apparatus or by use of marksense ballots and includes, but is not limited to, the procedures for casting and processing votes and the programs, operating manuals, supplies, printouts, and other software necessary for the system’s operation.
Definition [Overseas Voter]

(a) An absent uniformed services voter who, by reason of active duty or service, is absent from the United States on the date of the election involved;

(b) A person who resides outside the United States and is qualified to vote in the last place in which the person was domiciled before leaving the United States; or

(c) A person who resides outside the United States and, but for such residence, would be qualified to vote in the last place in which the person was domiciled before leaving the United States.

Definition [Uniformed Services]

The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, the commissioned corps of the Public Health Service, and the commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Definition [Voter Registration Official]

Any supervisor of elections or individual authorized by the Secretary of State to accept voter registration applications and execute updates to the statewide voter registration system.

Definition [Absent Uniformed Services Voter]
(a) A member of a uniformed service on active duty who, by reason of such active duty, is absent from the place of residence where the member is otherwise qualified to vote;
(b) A member of the merchant marine who, by reason of service in the merchant marine, is absent from the place of residence where the member is otherwise qualified to vote; or
(c) A spouse or dependent of a member referred to in paragraph (a) or paragraph (b) who, by reason of the active duty or service of the member, is absent from the place of residence where the spouse or dependent is otherwise qualified to vote.
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.

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.

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.

Definition [Election]

Any primary election, special primary election, special election, general election, or presidential preference primary election.

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.

Cases

florida Cases

Case Name: Cobb v. Thurman

Citation: 957 So.2d 638

Year: 2006

Case URL: https://www.ravellaw.com/opinions/9bb232d6758fd440b7c1aecce47ae227?query=957%20S[...]

Case Summary: Cobb v. Thurman held that the Secretary of State’s posted notice that a vote for a withdrawn congressional candidate from an opposing political party would be a vote for the party’s substitute candidate violated the impartiality requirements of the Election Code, but that the notice proposed by the supervisors of elections, which also stated that a vote for the withdrawn candidate was a vote for the substituted candidate, but also included the names of every other candidate for that office, satisfied the impartiality requirements under the Election Code.

Out-of-State Cases

Federal Cases

Case Name: Diaz v. Cobb

Citation: 541 F.Supp.2d 1319

Federal District Court: Southern District of Florida

Year: 2008

Case URL: https://www.ravellaw.com/opinions/8fb54c2aa6f5cfc73fd51ae70ccb76d0?query=Diaz%20[...]

Case Summary: Diaz v. Cobb held that Florida's 29 day deadline for submitting a completed voter registration form was constitutionally permissible because it furthered the state's interest in holding orderly elections.

Case Name: Wexler v. Lepore (federal)

Citation: 342 F. Supp. 2d 1097

Federal District Court: Southern District of Florida

Year: 2004

Case URL: https://www.ravellaw.com/opinions/d62da39f2d02d9313ee18e623a681e91

Case Summary: Wexler v. Lepore held that Florida's updated standards for manual recounts in counties that used touchscreen or optical scan systems complied with the 5th and 14th Amendments' equal protection requirements because the standards were uniform and non-differential.

Case Name: Bush v. Gore

Citation: 531 U.S. 98

Federal District Court: Eastern District of Virginia

Year: 2000

Case URL: https://www.ravellaw.com/opinions/ffe23a532d148e534fb47425579e2894?query=531%20U[...]

Case Summary: Bush v. Gore held that Florida's recount procedures were inconsistent with the minimum procedures necessary to protect the fundamental right of each voter in the instance of a statewide recount under the authority of a single state judicial officer.

Case Name: Touchston v. McDermott

Citation: 234 F.3d 1133

Federal Circuit Court: 11th Circuit Court

Year: 2000

Case URL: https://www.ravellaw.com/opinions/654c00b1d86cca2eef51b106a34708ff

Case Summary: Touchston v. McDermott held that, for the same reasons elaborated on in Siegel v. Lepore, the district court's denial of a preliminary injunction was affirmed.

Regulations & Guidance

Regulations

Additional Resources

Further Reading

  • Fla. Jur. 2d Elections s 22, Generally; Secretary of State as chief election officer

  • Fla. Jur. 2d Elections s 153, Voting instructions

  • Fla. Jur. 2d Elections s 166, Uniformed and overseas voters

  • Fla. Jur. 2d Elections s 209, Generally