Eustis voters casting ballots on invalid referendum, elections supervisor says

City officials say they missed a publication deadline ahead of Election Day

EUSTIS, Fla. – Next month voters in Eustis will answer a question on the ballot that will not count, according to elections officials.

Eustis city leaders are proposing to raise taxes and spend millions of dollars on a park and community center. The plans are on hold after city officials said they missed a crucial deadline to advertise the referendum.

Lake County Supervisor of Elections Alan Hays said the referendum won't be counted.

"We were notified last week about the city is no longer going to have the referendum on the ballot," Hays said.

The referendum asks Eustis voters if the city should issue up to $11.4 million in debt to build a new community center and expand Carver Park. It would raise taxes by $78 a year for property owners who own a $100,000 home.

"You can fill it in if you'd like, but it won't count," Hays said.

Eustis City Manager Ron Neibert said the city missed the deadline to advertise the ballot question. He said according to Florida law, the city was supposed to publish the referendum five weeks before Election Day and publish it again three weeks before voters cast their ballots.

"It was a calendar mistake in terms of going through the process and a date was missed on publication and unfortunately we missed the deadline," Neibert said.

Hays said his office didn’t learn about the mistake until it was too late and they couldn’t remove the referendum from the ballot. As of Friday, almost 1,200 vote-by-mail ballots were already sent out and nearly a third of them were returned, according to elections officials.

He said they will post signs at the polling places to let voters know the referendum is invalid.

Neibert said the city will bring the issue up again on the November ballot during the presidential election. He adds this time they will make sure they get it right.

"Obviously we'll make sure we meet the requirements this time to have a valid vote in November," Neibert said.

Early voting in Lake County runs from March 5 through March 14. Election Day is on March 17.

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