There is a bill expected to pass in the state legislature changing residency requirements for elected officials and candidates for elected office. The bill seeks to stop candidates who do not live in the district they hope to represent from running. This bill will include municipal and county offices.
Gainesville City Commission candidate, Annie Orlando, is a good example of why this change is necessary. Close friends and acquaintances know the home she and her husband have owned and lived in for many years is in Alachua County. They just happen to own property inside Gainesville city limits that she is claiming as her residence, but that home is rented to and occupied by a nonfamily member. Orlando was recently quoted saying she “spends time” at that rental home. This charade is an effort to satisfy the residency requirement to run for City Commission.
The legal definition of “reside” means one’s legal residence or permanent abode, which is in contrast to a temporary or intermittent residence. Further, you can have only one permanent abode at a time. The bill outlines more than a dozen factors assessing what qualifies as a legal residence, including where one lives with one’s spouse.
Recently, Orlando switched her voter registration and the homestead exemption address from the house she’s lived in for decades to their rental property. Public records from the Supervisor of Elections office show she had not voted in any city election prior to 2013. Public records also show Orlando’s husband is still registered to vote at the county address.
Those who run for office claiming residency in one area while actually living elsewhere have gamed the system for too long.
By a few sleights of hand — i.e. switching voter registration address, homestead exemption or renting a house — some candidates think they have satisfied some loose requirement and voters won’t pay any attention.
In reality, they are perpetrating a lie on the electorate.
Orlando has gone to extraordinary lengths to cover her tracks in an attempt to make her claim of city residency appear legitimate.
At a time when honesty, transparency and integrity in politics are rare, we must beware of those who are willing to obscure the truth and bend the rules just to get elected.
[Kasey Lewis is a UF political science sophomore. A version of this column ran on page 7 on 3/21/2014 under the headline "Legislation could cut out dishonest City Commission tactics"]