Chief Circuit Judge dismisses case against Supervisor of Elections

CHIPLEY – Chief Circuit Judge Christopher Patterson has dismissed a complaint against Supervisor of Elections Carol Finch Rudd in relation to the liquor referendum.

Jeremy Mutz filed the complaint last week on behalf of Ted Spangenberg, Jr., who challenged the legality of the election based on the petitions being presented to the Board of County Commissioners 159 days after their certification, rather than within the 120-day time frame required by law.

Judge Patterson signed the order Thursday afternoon, stating in part that Spangenberg failed to establish any statutory or constitutional duty that Rudd failed to carry out, “with the exception perhaps that [Rudd] mailed ballots out 15 days earlier than set forth in [Florida Statute] and then mailed a second set of ballots out one day too early.”

“However, the vote itself is now in progress and any resulting injury is yet to be determined.”

“The duties of [Rudd] in a local option referendum are set forth in [Florida Statute] and do not include any duty to advise the Board regarding the procedural requirements of Chapter 567,” wrote the judge. “… Moreover, [Spangenberg] has failed to establish that [Rudd] has any constitutional or statutory duty or authority to halt or refuse to conduct the referendum, which is the injunctive relief he seeks in the complaint.”

Judge Patterson has not yet ruled on a separate case filed against each member of the Washington County Board of County Commissioners.

As of 4 p.m. Thursday, 4,602 ballots had been returned to the Supervisor of Elections office, accounting for a voter turnout of about 27.48 percent.

Votes can be received until 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 21.

If anyone has misplaced their ballot, they can vote in person with identification at the Washington County Elections Office counter with a counter ballot.