Elections

7 Miami-Dade legislative candidates can’t vote for themselves

State Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, is one of seven legislative candidates in Miami-Dade who currently doesn’t live in and isn’t registered to vote in the district she’s running to represent. Flores lives in Senate District 40 but is running in District 39.
State Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, is one of seven legislative candidates in Miami-Dade who currently doesn’t live in and isn’t registered to vote in the district she’s running to represent. Flores lives in Senate District 40 but is running in District 39. AP

When she votes this fall, veteran Miami Republican lawmaker Anitere Flores might not be able to vote for herself.

Because if she votes in her current precinct, the ballot she receives will have neither her name nor her District 39 Florida Senate race on it. It will list the District 40 race instead.

The same goes for House District 103 candidate Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich, a Doral Democrat in her first bid for public office. Rather than seeing her own name on a ballot for the first time, she’ll see candidates for House District 116 if she votes in the precinct she’s assigned to now.

That’s because Flores and Gonzalez Petkovich — along with five other legislative candidates in Miami-Dade — don’t currently live in and aren’t registered to vote in the district that they’re seeking to represent.

The Herald/Times identified the seven candidates — one Republican (Flores) and six Democrats — through an analysis of current voter registration records. These candidates make up 20 percent of the 34 candidates competing for Miami-Dade legislative seats this fall.

The five other candidates are:

▪ Carlos Puentes Sr., a Democrat registered to vote in House District 111 and challenging Republican Rep. Jose Oliva in District 110;

▪ Sevi Miyar, a Democrat registered in House District 110 and challenging Republican Rep. Bryan Avila in District 111;

▪ Daisy Baez, a Democrat registered in House District 112 and running against Republican John Couriel for the open District 114 seat;

▪ Dan Horton, a Democrat registered in House District 105 and challenging Republican Rep. Holly Raschein in District 120;

▪ Phillip Brutus, a Democrat registered in Senate District 35 and running as a no-party affiliated candidate against Democratic Rep. Daphne Campbell in District 38.

Legislative candidates can run in a district they don’t live in, so long as they move in to the correct district upon being elected. Registered voters can update their registration at any time, so there’s still time for these candidates to move before Election Day and vote in their associated districts.

20% of Miami-Dade legislative candidates don’t currently live in, and can’t vote in, the districts they want to represent.

Both Flores’ and Gonzalez Petkovich’s lack of residency in their respective districts has been known for months. Each woman has vowed to move if elected and has dismissed criticism from opponents about not already living in the district they’re seeking to represent.

Flores this summer ran a TV ad that called her a “lifelong resident of District 39,” although her Miami residence is actually in District 40. That’s still where she’s registered to vote, according to county records.

Flores said in a statement Wednesday, though, that she is making the “necessary adjustments” to move and will be living in District 39 by Election Day. Democrat Debbie Mucarsel- Powell, of Islamorada, is running against her for the seat.

After new Florida Senate district boundaries were settled in January, Flores said she would move to District 39 so that she and fellow incumbent Dwight Bullard, a Miami Democrat, wouldn’t have to compete against one another for the same seat. Bullard is running in District 40.

For her part, Gonzalez Petkovich lives less than a half-mile outside of House District 103, where she’s trying to unseat influential Republican Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. The Republican Party of Florida and Diaz himself have attacked her for not living in the district — jabs she’s brushed off because, she says, she was born and raised there and still frequents it in her daily activities.

Her only comment Wednesday was that she is “in the process” of moving, but for now, “I’m just focused on this campaign.”

She told the Miami Herald’s editorial board in September it was “really no coincidence” that she lives where she does — which is in House District 116, records show. She said she moved in with her in-laws as “a very conscientious decision that I made so I can really put my heart and soul into this race” against Diaz.

Baez, through a spokesman, said she’s already moved into District 114 and Horton said in a text message he has signed a lease for a residence in District 120. They both said they plan to update their voter registration before casting their ballots by Nov. 8 in what will be their new precincts.

Miyar said she intends to move after the election, meaning she won’t be able to vote for herself. She said that “doesn’t matter,” though.

“The issues are important to me and not where I run,” she said.

When Brutus was asked whether he was making plans to move, he said only: “I will be in compliance with state law.”

“By law you don’t have to live in the district while you’re running; you have to be in when you’re sworn in, so I’m in compliance with the law,” he said.

Efforts to reach Puentes were unsuccessful.

The Florida Constitution requires lawmakers to be “an elector and resident” of the district that elects them. A Joint Rule governing the House and Senate adds the requirement that it be “at the time of election.”

But spokespersons for the House and Senate leadership offices said it’s up to each respective chamber to determine and enforce compliance with the residency mandate. That is based on a number of factors listed in the Joint Rule — including that lawmakers affirm residency inside their district before the Legislature’s organizational session after Election Day, which is Nov. 22 this year.

Kristen M. Clark: 850-222-3095, kclark@miamiherald.com, @ByKristenMClark

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