The county commission’s emergency meeting Monday was kind of a big deal.
Nine county commissioners agreed to start counting the campaign finance petitions submitted by the group Accountable Miami-Dade earlier this month. The group wants to change the way elected officials get money for their election campaigns. And they want people to be able to vote on it this November.
But getting it on the ballot has been an uphill battle.
Here’s your recap of the months-long saga:
WHAT WOULD GO ON THE BALLOT
In late April, Accountable Miami-Dade sent out a petition to put an item on the November 2016 ballot that asked for three things (These are just the bare bones — more deets here.):
- Cap all campaign contributions at $250 from any single person. (The cap is currently $1,000.)
- Any business that gets paid $250,000 or more by the county *can’t* contribute to campaigns.
- Public financing — the county matches a person’s donation at a 1-to-6 rate. So, if you donate $5 to a candidate, the county donates $30.
The whole point is that it makes it easier for candidates that don’t have much money to stand a chance against folks with deep pockets.
THE EPIC FAIL
The group got all the petitions they needed and submitted them on Aug. 2. Once the petitions were submitted, the Board of County Commissioners had to vote and send them to the Supervisor of Elections tobe counted.
The snafu: Most commissioners missed the meeting because August is the one month they are all on recess (or vacation) so Accountable Miami-Dade didn’t have the votes it needed to send it forward.
Accountable Miami-Dade was mad. They sued the county, sent out another petition, and held a rally to pressure commissioners to have another meeting and make the Supervisor of Elections count their petitions.
AN EMERGENCY MEETING
Commissioners scheduled an emergency meeting on Aug. 22. Many of them were unhappy about it because it’s technically their vacation month. Commissioner Rebeca Sosa said she had to reschedule her mother’s surgery and her cancer check-up to be in the room on Aug. 22. Others complained that they had to leave family vacations to be there.
After all the griping was said and done, commissioners, attorneys, and the public talked for almost three hours. Here are the highlights:
The County Attorney Abigail Price-Williams said: The language used in the petitions has legal concerns and should not go on the ballot as is. New language would mean that they have to circulate a whole new set of petitions (which would definitely not happen with enough time to get on the November ballot).
Election chief Christina White said: The final deadline for getting stuff on the ballot is Aug. 31. That’s because she needs to print the ballots by Sept. 16. Mayor Carlos Gimenez asked if she could add the ballot item provisionally then remove it later if she needed to, giving her more time to count the petitions. She agreed, hesitantly. She also said it would cost $350,000 to $400,000 for a 30-day count (arguably more for an expedited one).
The commissioners said: Go ahead. In a 9-0 agreement commissioners voted to send the petitions to the Supervisor of Elections for a count.
But there’s still one question, which Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava tried to answer at the end of the meeting: When will the commissioners decide if they think the language is legal and can actually stay on the November ballot?
The commission kind of brushed it off and ended the meeting in a rush. Either way, the Supervisor of Elections will officially begin counting the petitions and commissioners will just decide later if the ballot language is legal. (There’s a commission meeting on Sept. 7 when the recess is over and that might be when they decide if it stays or goes.)