Orange County mayor to take issue of nonpartisan elections to state Supreme Court

Voters approved nonpartisan elections, term limits for 6 constitutional officers

ORLANDO, Fla. – Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs held a news conference Monday in which she announced that she will be taking her battle over a voter-approved change that would require nonpartisan elections for constitutional offices to the state Supreme Court.

In 2014, county voters backed amendments to the Orange County Charter that required nonpartisan elections and term limits for six constitutional officers: sheriff, tax collector, property appraiser, comptroller, clerk of the circuit court and elections supervisor.

Sheriff Jerry Demings, Property Appraiser Rick Singh and Tax Collector Scott Randolph, all of whom are Democrats, sued to overturn the amendments. A circuit judge later upheld the term limits but rejected the nonpartisan elections.

The county appealed that decision, but the 5th District Court of Appeal sided with the lower court’s decision, ruling in part: “We agree with Appellees’ assertion that Orange County cannot regulate the method and timing of its elections for county constitutional officers because that subject area has been preempted to the State.”

“We intend to ask the (state) Supreme Court to take this matter up," Jacobs said. "The decision to appeal this matter to the Supreme Court is certainly not a decision that I take lightly and certainly not a decision that the voters should take lightly.”

Jacobs said seven counties across Florida have nonpartisan elections and that local voters overwhelmingly voted for the change on two occasions.

“Perhaps it’s that voters realize we just don’t need a Washington-style gridlock in Central Florida,” Jacobs said.

A spokesman for Randolph issued a statement to News 6 on Monday evening.

“The law is very clear on this issue and we fully expect the Supreme Court to rule in our favor, just like the other two courts have,” the statement read.

Jacobs told News 6 that, if the Supreme Court upholds the decision by the appeals court, she expects state lawmakers to examine the law the courts are citing.

“I expect it to land squarely in the hands of the Legislature,” Jacobs said. “ Is that what they intended to do?”

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