WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Friday, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of Florida voters against Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) for his failure to call three special elections to fill vacancies in three majority-Black legislative districts. In line with Florida’s “resign-to-run” law, three legislators — Rep. Bobby DuBose (D), Rep. Omari Hardy (D) and Sen. Perry Thurston (D) — filed resignation letters over 75 days ago in order to run for the open congressional seat left by Congressman Alcee Hastings’ (D) death in April. Despite the fact that the 2022 legislative session is fast approaching, DeSantis has not yet announced any special elections to fill these seats. The complaint asks the court to order the governor to set special primary and general elections to fill these vacancies before the next legislative session so that the voters of these districts can have adequate representation in the Florida Legislature.
The complaint outlines Florida’s history of quickly calling special elections to fill congressional and legislative vacancies, pointing out that, for 65 vacancies that occurred “between 1999 and 2020, it took, on average, 7.6 days for the Governor to call a special election after the vacancy arose.” However, DeSantis has waited over 75 days to call special elections for the three open legislative seats — all located in majority-Black districts — despite the fact that the 2022 legislative session begins on Jan. 11. The complaint asserts that DeSantis is bound by Florida law to set special elections for vacant seats and, if he fails to carry out this duty “very soon, Petitioners will go without the representation to which they are entitled in the 2022 Legislative Session.” The complaint highlights that DeSantis also waited a longer-than-normal amount of time to call a special election for Hastings’ seat, also located in a majority-Black district. 30 days after Hastings’ death — and only after a lawsuit was brought against him — DeSantis set a special election for Hastings’ former seat, causing the three legislators to resign and leading to the vacant seats at issue in this lawsuit.