The Third District Court of Appeal, on expedited review, upheld a lower court ruling that found that a candidate for mayor of the City of Miami Gardens had been properly excluded from the ballot because his qualifying check bounced, even though he had enough funds in his account and it appears the bank in questions made an error. The reason for this is the “plain and unambiguous” wording of the qualifying statute, which provides at Section 99.061(7)(a)1:
(7)(a) In order for a candidate to be qualified, the following items
must be received by the filing officer by the end of the qualifying
1. A properly executed check drawn upon the candidate’s campaign
account payable to the person or entity as prescribed by the filing
officer in an amount not less than the fee required by s. 99.092, unless
the candidate obtained the required number of signatures on petitions
pursuant to s. 99.095. The filing fee for a special district candidate is
not required to be drawn upon the candidate’s campaign account. If a
candidate’s check is returned by the bank for any reason, the filing
officer shall immediately notify the candidate and the candidate shall
have until the end of qualifying to pay the fee with a cashier’s check
purchased from funds of the campaign account. Failure to pay the fee
as provided in this subparagraph shall disqualify the candidate.
As the bounced check was not returned until after the qualifying period had ended, the court found, with “tremendous distaste for the result” that they were compelled by the statute to affirm the lower court’s denial of any relief. This holding was consistent with a First District Court of Appeal opinion in 2014, which found that the Legislature had specifically removed the prior 48 hour cure period for bounced checks that existed prior to 2011. That case triggered a vehement dissent on the denial of rehearing en banc.
The Third District Court of Appeal did certify the following question as one of great public importance:
Does section 99.061(7)(a)1. require a candidate’s disqualification when the candidate’s qualifying fee check is returned by the bank after the expiration of the qualifying period due to a banking error over which the candidate has no control?
Whether the Supreme Court will consider this question is discretionary, and the Court, in 2014, declined the acceptance of jurisdiction of the First District case.