This past week, a rumor started that former President Donald Trump would go to Tallahassee and personally convince the Florida legislature not to amend Section 99.012 of the Florida election code. That code provision requires elected officials to resign their present office if they wish to run for another office with a term that overlaps. Many states have resign-to-run laws, but Florida’s does not appear to apply in Gov. Ron DeSantis’s situation.
In fairness, the Florida legislature at one point amended the law to make it very clear it did not apply. When Charlie Crist was governor and thinking of running, the legislature changed the law. Florida then-Gov. Rick Scott and the legislature changed the law back in 2018.
Even then, there was uncertainty about whether the law applies to runs for the presidency. Let’s look at the relevant text. F.S. Section 99.012(4) states: (4)(a)?Any officer who qualifies for federal public office must resign from the office he or she presently holds if the terms, or any part thereof, run concurrently with each other; (b)?The resignation is irrevocable;(c)?The resignation must be submitted at least 10 days before the first day of qualifying for the office he or she intends to seek; (d)?The written resignation must be effective no later than the earlier of the following dates: 1.?The date the officer would take office, if elected; or 2.?The date the officer’s successor is required to take office.
The whole of section four must be read together. An officer who qualifies for federal office must resign his present office and the written letter of resignation must be effective no later than the date the officer would take office, if elected. In other words, DeSantis would not be allowed to serve as both governor and president and would have to resign effective Jan. 20, 2025.
However, we need to dig further. Notice the word “qualifies.” Qualifying is an act wherein a candidate pays a fee and signs an oath declaring their run for a particular office. Florida Statute, or as it is legally cited, F.S. Section 99.021 et. seq. outlines the process by which candidates must qualify.
F.S. Section 99.061?generally requires qualifying for “nomination or election to federal, state, county, or district office.” F.S. Section 99.063 covers qualifying more specifically for governor and lieutenant governor. F.S. Section 99.081?covers qualifying for the United States Senate more specifically. F.S. Section 99.091 covers qualifying for the United States House of Representatives more specifically.
There is no Florida statute on qualifying for president or vice president. In fact, under Florida law, neither the president nor the vice president goes through the qualifying process. The presidential process is covered by F.S. Section 103.101, which has an entirely different procedure that does not involve qualifying for the office.
Democrats and Trump can argue that because the Florida legislature once amended F.S. Section 99.012 to clarify that section did not apply to presidential races and then amended it back to the old language, it means the section does apply. DeSantis’ team, backed by the Florida senate’s reading and an old opinion of the Florida attorney general, can argue the presidential nomination process is not a qualifying event and, even if it were, the statute says DeSantis need not resign until Jan. 20, 2025, because that would be the date he would take office.
The Florida House had introduced a measure to clarify the language. DeSantis’ team and the Florida Senate do not believe the language is necessary. Most election lawyers I have spoken to on the matter believe the law is inapplicable to a presidential run.
Considering the Florida Election Code’s provisions on qualifying make mention of all the races in which qualifying is necessary and the presidency is not listed among them, it strongly suggests the resign-to-run law does not apply to a run for the presidency. Many people, myself included, had thought the resign-to-run law would have to be fixed. A deeper examination makes me think I and many others have been wrong on the issue.
Also, if Trump really does try to force the issue, it does suggest he fears DeSantis’ entry into the race.
To find out more about Erick Erickson and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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