Sunday, May 10, 2020

EMERGENCY RULEMAKING OR WAIVER re: COVID-19 AND CANDIDATE QUALIFYING: Florida Division of Elections --Secretary of State

I wrote the Florida Secretary of State Friday afternoon, May 8, 2020, asking that Florida be made safe for democracy during the current COVID-19 crisis.  No acknowledgement received as of 6 pm.

Here' is my request for waiver or emergency rulemaking to Secretary of State Laurel Lee:

-----Original Message-----
From: Ed Slavin
Sent: Fri, May 8, 2020 1:50 pm
Subject: EMERGENCY RULEMAKING OR WAIVER re: COVID-19 AND CANDIDATE QUALIFYING: Florida Division of Elections -- Secretary of State

The Honorable Florida Secretary of State, Ms Laurel M. Lee:

Dear Ms. Lee:t

This is a petition for waiver or an emergency rulemaking pursuant to F.S. 120. Please respond positively, in the interest of fair Florida elections in 2020. As the Eleventh Circuit noted in  Jones v DeSantis, 19-14551 (11th Cir. 2020), "the Supreme Court has routinely referred to the right to vote as 'fundamental.' See, e.g., Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 561-62 (1964)."
he Supreme

1. I am a non-incumbent first-time candidate for county-wide office in St. Johns County, Florida (Supervisor of Elections).  I am 63, and have arthritis and am deemed vulnerable to the virus.  (I do not drive).  Thus, my ability to campaign and to collect candidate petition signatures safely and legally was ENDED by the COVID-19 virus and Governor's March 20, 2020 stay-home orders.  My ability to engage in the normal face-to-face process was ORDERED closed by the Governor.

2. Would you please be so kind as to waive the fee and required number of signatures, at least for persons who had signed up to run as of March 20, 2020?  This is necessary and proper to protect my civil and constitutional rights:
  • due to impossibility of performance, 
  • as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and 
  • preserve and protect First Amendment values.

3. Likewise, would you kindly waive or reduce all filing fees for persons who had signed up to run as of March 20, 2020?  Fees were readily and graciously waived or reduced by local Northeast Florida governments for everything from corporations seeking building permits to restaurants seeking to add seating outdoors.  Similar waivers are required under election laws.  The fee should be no more than what would have been charged if candidates had obtained the requisite number of signatures (ten cents times the number required, or in my case, less than $200 as opposed to the ballot fee of more than $8300 without signatures).  Non-incumbent candidates' ability to raise funds has been inhibited by the largest unemployment in America since the Great Depression, with our people cabined at home, our state's tourism economy ruined, business and vacation travel halted, fortunes lost, businesses bankrupted, some 14.7% unemployed and some 33.5 million filing for unemployment.  See, generally, Heather Long,  "Jobless rate soars to 14.7%, worst level since Great Depression," The Washington Post (May 8, 2020)(online); Jacob Ogles, "Bipartisan group of candidates call for reduced ballot qualification fees, Florida Politics (March 23, 2020) at
"Grassroots candidates say shutdown makes qualification waiver more pressing than ever --   Lockdown hinders petition gathering, fundraising for many campaigns," Jacob Ogles, Florida Politics (April 2, 2020).


4. In some six (6) weeks, more Americans died of coronavirus than died in the Vietnam War.  The Global Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020 has had us in lockdown for weeks, depriving of the ability to get signatures, give speeches, hold house parties and other election activities.   Meanwhile, the economic fallout has robbed potential contributors of campaign funds of their jobs, incomes and savings. 

5. It has been reported that these facts weigh political races in Florida heavily in favor of incumbents this year.  Last month, after the qualifying period ended for judicial, State's Attorney and Public Defender positions statewide,  many of those positions have no opponent and will have no election, not even a write-in.

6.  The integrity of our elections and democracy is at stake and in your hands, Madam Secretary.  

7. Coupled with the Governor's orders, our Florida election laws deny First Amendment rights to run for office in a free country.  These twin sets of restrictions, while unanticipated, have the effect of denying our First Amendment what it deserves -- "breathing space."  NAACP v. Button, 371 U.S. 415, 433 (1963) New York Times. v. Sullivan, 3766 U.S. 254 (1974); Gasparinetti v. Kerr, 568 F.2d 311, 314-17 (3d Cir. 1977)(illegal restrictions on policemen’s First Amendment rights); Philadelphia Newspapers, Inc. v. Hepps, 479 767, 772, 777 (1986)(O’Connor, J.)(newspaper entitled to breathing space in defamation case); Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, 485 U.S. 46, 52, 56 (1988) (Rehnquist, J.) (magazine parody of TV preacher entitled to breathing space); Keefe v. Ganeakos, 418 F.2d 359, 362 (1st Cir. 1969)(Aldrich, C.J.)(chilling effect on First Amendment illegal suspension of teacher over Atlantic Monthly article on Vietnam War); Parducci v. Rutland, 316 F.Supp. 352, 355, 357 (M.D. Ala 1970)(Johnson, C.J.)(chilling effect in illegal firing of English teacher over Kurt Vonnegut’s Welcome to the Monkey House.


8. The time is approaching to qualify for local elections, and due to COVID-19 candidates' ability to obtain petition signatures and gain the necessary required funds has been impossible under the Order of the Governor of Florida. This unexpected event of COVID-19 has created a severe hardship on many Floridians, as many are now unemployed and it is unknown when Florida will be opened back up and things will get back to normal. The Governor's Orders and local restrictions are still in force. Even then, it is going to take some time for many to get back on their feet. This is a major concern considering there are only two methods available for a candidate to qualify for local elections.  

9. Can you please tell me what alternatives or exemption have been considered or will put in place for qualifying under the current conditions  and hardships due to COVID 19?  I am interested in knowing if the qualifying by petition or by fee can be waived due to the circumstances, if not waived, if it could be reduced to 10% of the normal qualifying cost, or if qualifying can be extended to allow candidates the opportunity to obtain petitions or funds when it is safe to do so,  and feel these suggestions are reasonable and appropriate.  If there are currently no alternatives in place, could you please take emergency action and do  what  is necessary to put alternative measures in place to prevent interested candidates from being excluded from qualifying under these dire circumstances?


10. COVID-19 is an immediate serious danger to public health, safety or welfare.  Agency action is necessary to protect the public.  I look forward to your prompt response, and thank you for giving this matter your urgent attention as an emergency rulemaking or waiver.  

Thank you.

With kindest regards, I am,
Sincerely yours,
Ed Slavin
Candidate for St. Johns County Supervisor of Elections
P.O. Box 3084
St. Augustine, Florida 32085-3084

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