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Wednesday, Nov 14, 2018
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Editorial: In absurd election, the Tribune recommends Jamie Grant for House District 64

An unnecessary and costly special general election will be held Tuesday to officially decide a winner of the District 64 race for the state House of Representatives.

James “Jamie” Grant, the former occupant of District 64 who found himself caught in a nightmare scenario involving an absurdity in state election law, faces a write-in candidate who didn’t live in the district when he filed to run and hasn’t campaigned. Because his “candidacy” is a sham and affront to our electoral process, we aren’t mentioning the write-in candidate by name.

District 64 includes the northwestern corner of Hillsborough County and an eastern slice of Pinellas County. Grant, 32, is a Republican who first won election to the district in 2010 and has represented it well. He deserves another term.

He defeated Republican primary candidate Miriam Steinberg in August last year. But the November general election was delayed until Tuesday by a legal challenge over the residency of his write-in opponent, which forced Grant to the sidelines as his fellow lawmakers began the legislative session in March.

When elected Tuesday, and there is no doubt he will be, Grant says he will engage in the issues that remain in debate as the Legislature begins to wind down its session, which is scheduled to end in two weeks. He says he is eager to back a measure to protect condo owners from losing their homes, and another that brings clarity to the rules governing the ride-booking companies Uber and Lyft.

The election will mean 158,000 people who live in the district will finally have representation in the House this legislative session. Florida’s flawed election law is the reason the seat has been vacant. It allows write-in candidates to qualify by filling out some paperwork, rather than having to pay a fee or gather signatures. Once that occurs, the presence of a write-in requires a general election be held. Without a write-in opponent, Grant could have won election in August primary and taken his rightful seat as the session began last month.

This could be easily fixed by changing the law to include write-in candidate in a universal primary. But the major political parties like to play games with the law by putting phony write-in candidates on the ballot that will close the vote in primary elections to members of their party and exclude independents and members of other parties from influencing the decision.

Lawmakers are on track to fix the law to make it clear that write-ins candidate don’t have to live in the district at the time they qualify, only at the time of the election, eliminating the confusion that led to the legal dispute over District 64 and the delayed the general election. But efforts to fix the bigger problems that exclude voters and force unnecessary general election votes are not being addressed.

By some estimates, the special election Tuesday will cost taxpayers between $300,000 and $400,000. In an election that shouldn’t have to be held, The Tampa Tribune endorses James Grant for House District 64.

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