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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Alachua County Commission continues process to put at-large elections on the ballot

If approved in a public hearing, the amendment will appear on the November general election ballot

In its meeting Tuesday, the Alachua County Commission continued the process to let residents vote to change how county commission elections will work.

The Alachua County Commission authorized the advertisement of a Charter Amendment to make county commission elections at-large unanimously, with Commissioner Charles Chestnut absent.

After Tuesday’s authorization, commissioners will vote on the Charter Amendment again in a public hearing in June. 

If they vote to pass it then, the Charter Amendment will be placed on the November general election ballot, where Alachua County voters will decide whether they want the county commission to return to an at-large election system. 

Alachua County constituents can currently vote for the county commissioner residing in their district exclusively. Consequently, people living in districts where commissioners aren’t up for reelection , like District 4’s Commissioner Ken Cornell, will not have the ability to vote for any commissioner on the upcoming ballot. 

Cornell said the referendum would best represent the people of his district, expressing his support for its inclusion on the ballot this November. 

“Many of the members in my district are not happy with the fact that during this election, they will not have a voice,” Cornell said during the meeting. “They will not be able to vote for any of the three seats.” 

Under the previous at-large system, voters can elect other commissioners on the ballot regardless of district. 

Fourteen people spoke during public comment to voice their opinions on the referendum. Evelyn Foxx, NAACP Alachua County Branch president, said the NAACP was delighted to have this issue back on the ballot. 

“I want all of you to be accountable to all the citizens of Alachua County,” Foxx said, addressing the commissioners.

Alachua County Labor Coalition coordinator Bobby Mermer voiced support for putting the charter amendment on the November ballot. 

Speakers said single-member districts originally passed in 2022 because “unfair” misinformation was spread in the previous election . 

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As someone who had been on the campaign trail, Commissioner Anna Prizzia said there is a need for education on what voting in single-member districts truly means. 

“I think that while it was voted on last time, it was done in haste and it was done with a lot of misinformation out there that wasn’t in the forums,” Prizzia said at the meeting. “And I can tell you that the voters are confused, and that the voters did not understand and that the voters are now frustrated.” 

Commissioner Prizzia said she looks forward to the issue being on the ballot again. 

There will be a public hearing for the referendum June 11. The next County Commissioners General Meeting will be held May 28. 

Contact Morgan Vanderlaan at morganvanderlaan@ufl.edu. Follow her on X @morgvande.

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