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Court sides with Thurston in matching funds dispute

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An appeals court Wednesday sided with state Sen. Perry Thurston in a dispute about whether he was entitled to receive matching funds for his unsuccessful 2014 campaign for attorney general.

The state Division of Elections, in a move backed by the Florida Elections Commission, said Thurston was not eligible for matching funds because he failed to provide adequate documentation that he had raised at least $100,000 in contributions, said Wednesday's ruling by a panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal.

The Division of Elections pointed, at least in part, to photocopies of five checks that could not be fully read.

In October 2014, nearly two months after Thurston lost the Democratic primary, he submitted legible copies of the checks, but the Division of Elections declined to certify his eligibility for matching funds.

Thurston, who was elected in 2016 to represent a Broward County Senate district, appealed, and the panel Wednesday said the Division of Elections should reconsider its decision.

"We conclude that where a candidate for a Cabinet office submitted documentation before the primary election, some of the documentation contained legibility defects which made verification impossible, the candidate was advised of the defects after he was eliminated in the primary election, and he submitted clearer photocopies of some of the checks which had been disallowed, it would subvert the purpose of the (Florida Election Campaign Financing) Act to permit the division to refuse to determine whether the candidate met the threshold amount for matching funds," said the 10-page ruling, written by appeals-court Chief Judge Cory Ciklin and joined by judges Spencer Levine and Alan Forst.