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Sunday, February 25, 2024

All eligible Gainesville voters can cast their ballots for Commissioner Gail Johnson’s replacement this November.

The Gainesville City Commission finalized the date for the special election to fill Johnson’s vacant at-large seat during a meeting Thursday: the election will take place Nov. 16. 

Early voting will be open from Nov. 12 to Nov. 14 at the Supervisor of Elections’ office and Millhopper Branch Library from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Johnson announced her intent to resign on Aug. 23, citing complaints about City Manager Lee Feldman’s employment and questioning the city’s commitment to racial and gender equity. Johnson said at the Thursday meeting she will officially put her resignation in writing Oct. 1.

Voter turnout hit an all-time low of 11% in the last standalone city election in March, and the commission decided to not hold separate elections for commission seats. But Johnson’s case poses an exception. The commission will hold an election rather than appointing someone because there’s more than 6 months left in her term.

The city will announce precinct availability on Oct. 16, and locations will depend on the number of available poll workers. Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe also said mail-in ballots will be available.

The city may have to consolidate precincts to make up for a lack of poll workers, Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Kim Barton said at the meeting. Her office will look into which precincts will be made available for voters, she said.

Candidates can file to run in the election from Sept. 20 to Sept. 24, Clerk Department Head Omichele Gainey said at the meeting. Candidates must be a city resident for more than six months before running for office. Cynthia Chestnut, a former state representative and the former chair of the Alachua County Democratic Party, hinted at a possible run last week.   

It will cost the city no more than $200,000 to host the election, Gainey said. 

The money will come from the city’s general fund balance, city spokesperson Shelby Taylor said. The budget is an estimation based off of past elections, so the city may not spend all $200,000. 

If necessary, a runoff election will be on Jan. 25, with early voting for the runoff being Jan. 21 to Jan. 23. Poe said he supported the idea of a majority vote to win the election rather than a winner-take-all model. In a majority vote model, a runoff is required if no candidates get a majority of the votes, according to city codes.

Because this election came as a surprise and is moving quickly, Barton said her office is working past the staffing and timing challenges to ensure it runs smoothly. 

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“There’s so many things that go into putting elections together,” she said. “We don’t want to rush anything, but we want to make sure that we have efficient, accurate elections.”

Contact Meghan at Follow her on Twitter @meggmcglone.

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Meghan McGlone

Meghan McGlone is a UF junior majoring in journalism and English, and this year she’s the City and County Commission reporter. In past years, she’s served as the University Editor, the Student Government reporter, and other positions. Her favorite past time is eating gummy worms and reading a good book.

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