TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida lawmakers met Tuesday to organize and seat new members after the election, but the meeting was anything but usual.
The Florida Constitution gives the Legislature the sole authority to decide who has been elected and who hasn't. That power was on full display Tuesday.
"The House finds itself in the unusual position that we have received certified election results from the executive branch, and at the same time the judicial branch has held that a qualified write-in candidate was denied access to the ballot," said Richard Corcoran, R-Pasco. "I move that the House reject the election returns for District 64, which will create a vacancy in that district."
"The election returns for District 64 have been rejected by the House. A vacancy has been created," said outgoing House Speaker Rep. Will Weatherford.
The vote to throw out the results and have the governor call a special election was unanimous. House Speaker Rep. Steve Cristifulli said rejecting the Tampa election will actually speed up the process for seating a representative.
"That actually speeds up the process, versus going through a court that could go on for several weeks, months and even longer," said Cristifulli.
A second seat from Jacksonville remains empty because the incumbent failed to properly qualify. A special election is also being held for that seat.
Holding special elections to fill the two seats will cost taxpayers in Tampa and Jacksonville at least a quarter-million dollars a piece. Voters in the districts will be without representatives for at least a month when the Legislative session begins in March.
Voters in two other state House districts and one state Senate district will also have special elections due to the resignation of state Sen. John Thrasher when he was appointed president of Florida State University. The total price tag for all the special elections will likely top $2 million.