When St Johns County Supervisor of Elections, Vicky Oakes, told Historic City News that Monday was the last day for candidates in federal, statewide, multi-county, county, district and special district contests to submit voter petitions in lieu of paying qualifying fees, she did so knowing that her work is just starting.
Although qualifying papers cannot be turned in before May 21, and qualifying week is not until noon, June 4 through noon, June 8, the Supervisor of Elections is allowed three weeks to validate and certify petitions before they are accepted.
“We ask every candidate that intends to collect petitions to do so early and to get them to us in batches,” Oakes said. “Each paper petition has to be checked for accuracy, we match the signature to the one we have on file, we verify the date the petition was signed, where the voter resides, and, generally, cross-check everything against our records.”
We are talking about many pieces of paper, too. In county commission races, for example, you needed 1,398 certified petitions to avoid paying $3,870.72 in partisan qualifying fees; $2,580.48 if running non-partisan.
Some races have several candidates, which adds to the burden, Oakes said.
We asked the Supervisor about the candidates who wait until the last minute to turn in petitions — thinking they have collected enough valid signatures. What happens if, during the validation process, enough petitions are rejected that the candidate comes up short?
“The candidate can still qualify to run for the seat beginning June 4,” Oakes said. “They just have to bring a check from their campaign account for the qualifying fee with their other paperwork.”
Oakes expects that, given the volume of petitions submitted, and the activities going on with other parts of the election, candidates who have not already received notification of petition certification might be waiting another couple of weeks before they know.
For constitutional officers, the fee is a percentage of their annual salary — either 4% or 6% depending on whether they are running as a partisan candidate. The qualifying fee for county court judge, which is non-partisan, is $5,371.20. The sheriff, on the other hand, would pay $7,820.52 — even though he earns slightly less than a county court judge, he is running as a Republican in a partisan race.
Municipal and special district elections have much lower qualifying fees and write-in candidates pay no qualifying fees. The two St Augustine City Commissioners up for re-election will pay only $175.19 — the mayor, who comes up every two years, earns slightly more money and pays a slightly higher fee; $224.42. In the City of St Augustine Beach, commissioners pay a $69.74 qualifying fee, and in the Town of Hastings, the fee is only $8.40.
Mosquito Control District, Airport Authority, Soil and Water Conservation District, Ponte Vedra Beach Municipal District, Port and Waterway commission and all Community Development District candidates pay a $25.00 qualifying fee — even though, if elected, their positions are uncompensated.