Procedures for qualifying and running for office in Florida are established by the state election code, Chapters 97 to 106 of the Florida Statutes, which can be viewed online. Qualifying for federal, state, multi-county, and multi-county special district offices (e.g., Sebastian Inlet District) is handled by the Division of Elections in Tallahassee. Qualifying for county or single-county special district offices (e.g., Canaveral Port Authority) is conducted by the Supervisor of Elections office. However, each municipality's city or town clerk handles the qualifying of municipal candidates.
Appoint a Campaign Treasurer and Designate Campaign Depository
The first step in running for office is to file an Appointment of Campaign Treasurer and Designation of Campaign Depository form (DS-DE 9). (Campaign treasurers and campaign depositories are not required for candidates for special district offices if the candidate does not collect contributions and has only the filing fee as an expense.) This form can be obtained from, and is subsequently filed with, the Supervisor of Elections (or appropriate qualifying officer). You may not open a bank account, collect, or spend any money on your campaign before you file this form, but you may talk to people about your campaign at any time. Once you have filed your designation (DS-DE 9), you are an announced candidate, and you must follow the rules outlined in Chapter 106 of the Election Code regarding campaign finance requirements. A copy of this section of the Election Code will be given to you when you file your designation form. Within 10 days of filing a DS-DE 9, candidates are required to file a Statement of Candidate (DS-DE 84).
The qualifying period varies as follows depending on the office which you are seeking:
- Federal, Judicial, State Attorney, and Public Defender: Noon May 2 through Noon May 6, 2016
- Statewide, Multi-county, County, and District offices: Noon June 20 through Noon June 24, 2016
- City and town qualifying dates vary from municipality to municipality. For more information regarding the qualifying process for municipal candidates, please contact your city or town clerk.
Before the qualifying period, the Supervisor of Elections (or appropriate qualifying officer) will give you instructions and a packet of additional forms that need to be filed during your qualifying period. Some of these forms can also be found on the Division of Elections forms page. The Financial Disclosure (Form 6) and the Statement of Financial Interests (Form 1) can be found on the Florida Commission on Ethics page (http://www.ethics.state.fl.us).
You must file all of your qualifying paperwork and pay your qualifying fee, or submit your petition certification affirming that you have met the petition requirement, by noon of the last day of your qualifying period to be eligible to have your name placed on the ballot.
The Qualifying Fee is based on a percentage of the salary for the office you are seeking as of July 1 of the preceding year of the general election (except for special district offices, which have a flat $25.00 qualifying fee). This fee consists of a three percent filing fee, a two percent party fee, and a one percent election assessment. Candidates running with no party affiliation or for nonpartisan offices do not pay the party fee. Some municipal offices do not require the election assessment fee. candidates are required to pay the qualifying fee by a check from your campaign account (with the exception of special district candidates who are permitted to pay the fee with a personal or campaign check.
As an alternative to paying the qualifying fee, you may qualify by meeting the petition requirement. The petition format shall be prescribed by the Division of Elections and shall be used by the candidate to reproduce petitions for circulation. A copy of the DS-DE 104 can be found here. Signatures may not be obtained until the candidate has filed the Appointment of Campaign Treasurer and Designation of Campaign Depository (DS-DE 9) pursuant to Section 106.021 of the Florida Statutes. If the candidate is running for an office that requires a group or district designation, the petition must indicate that designation and, if it does not, the signatures are not valid. Any registered voter in the jurisdiction of the office you are seeking may sign your petition. The number of signatures needed is equal to one percent of the total number of registered voters in that jurisdiction in the preceding General Election. Click on the year for qualification information, including the number of petition signatures you will need to obtain to meet the petition requirement for ballot placement, for 2015 and 2016.
If you qualify with the Supervisor of Elections, candidates are highly encouraged to submit petitions for verification at their earliest convenience. After each batch of your petitions is processed, you will receive a report from the Candidate Coordinator. You can use this report to determine how many additional signatures you need to obtain to meet the petition requirement.
In accordance with Florida Statute, all candidate petitions must be submitted for verification to the Supervisor of Elections office by noon on:
- April 4, 2016 for Federal, Judicial, State Attorney and Public Defender offices.
- May 23, 2016 for Statewide, Multi-county, County and District offices.
If you are holding one office and seeking another you must resign your current office at least 10 days prior to the first day of qualifying for the office being sought. The resignation must be effective no later than the earlier of the following dates: the date that you would take office, if elected, or the date your successor is required to take office. The resignation requirement does not apply to candidates for federal office; however, no candidate may qualify for more than one office if the terms of the offices overlap.
If you qualify as a Democrat or Republican, your name will appear on the Primary Election ballot if there are other candidates running for the same office in the same party. If the only candidates who qualify are from the same party, the race will appear on the Primary ballot but all voters will be able to vote on that contest -- this is called a Universal Primary Contest. The name of the Primary candidate who receives the most votes is placed on the General Election ballot. However, if you run as a minor party candidate, or with no party affiliation, your name will appear only on the General Election ballot.
Write-in candidates, other than those running for President and Vice President, qualify during the same time period as regular candidates. There is no qualifying fee for write-in candidates. If someone qualifies for an office as a write-in candidate, their name does not appear on the ballot, but the notation "Write-in" and a blank line will appear on the General Election ballot beneath all of the other candidates for the office. Only write-in votes for qualified candidates are counted. Write-in candidates must reside in the district they seek to represent at the time of qualification.
If you have any questions about running for office that have not been answered by the web page, please contact us. A good resource to visit is our Common Candidate Mistakes page, which explains various pitfalls that can be avoided during your candidacy.