Court Strictly Construes Absentee Ballots in Florida Election Contest

In case of Addie L. Greene, et al. v. Jeff Clemens, et al . the Leon County Circuit Court recently entered a final judgment rejecting an election contest suit which was based upon the failure of the Palm Beach County Canvassing Board to count 40 absentee ballots.  The court found that the canvassing board did not abuse its discretion when it determined that the 40 ballots should not be counted because the signatures on the absentee ballot voter certificate did not match the signatures in the voter registration records.  The court found that its review of the issues was strictly limited by the language of F.S. 102.168(8), which states that the “circuit court may not review or consider any evidence other than the signature on the voter certificate and the signature of the elector in the registration records”. Because of the language of this statute, the court concluded that it could not consider the testimony of the voters whose ballots were rejected.  After reviewing the voter certificate signatures and comparing them with those on the registration records, the court found that the signatures did not match and therefore the Palm Beach Canvassing Board did not abuse its discretion in rejecting the ballots. 


Thomas D. Shults, Esq.

About Thomas D. Shults, Esq.

Tom Shults is a Florida Bar Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer. He has represented clients in election and sunshine law issues, complex business and commercial disputes and probate and trust suits. He was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1983 and has maintained an active trial practice in state and federal courts for over 35 years. Mr. Shults successfully represented the Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections in Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections et al. v. Browning et al. , where the Florida Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of Sarasota County’s charter election law amendments. Mr. Shults has served on the Professional Ethics Committee of The Florida Bar and is the past Chairman of the Code and Rules of Evidence Committee of The Florida Bar. He is a recipient of the Distinguished Community Service Award of the Sarasota County Bar Association for his work with the Sarasota Mental Health Community Centers. In 2013 he was nominated for circuit court judge by the 12th Circuit Judicial Nominating Committee. Mr. Shults has served on the faculty of the Kessler-Eidson Program for Trial Techniques at Emory University School of Law and on the faculty of the National Institute for Trial Advocacy Program for Practicing Lawyers at Nova Southeastern University School of Law. Mr. Shults grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida and is a graduate of St. Petersburg High School (1973), Florida State University (B.S. 1977) and Washburn University School of Law (J.D. cum laude 1982). He is veteran of the United States Army.
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