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Orange County’s interim elections chief won’t seek full term

Image: Elections, brennancenter.org
Courtesy Brennan Center for Justice
Interim Orange County Supervisor of Elections Glen Gilzean isn't running in the November election.

Interim Orange County Supervisor of Elections Glen Gilzean pledged his “unwavering support” for the forthcoming elections chief in a written statement shared shortly after noon Friday, the deadline for candidates to qualify for the race.

Now, the official lineup consists of four Democratic candidates and one nonpartisan contender. Voters will choose who becomes the county’s next elections chief in November.

Governor Ron DeSantis appointed Gilzean to the role of Orange County’s Supervisor of Elections in March, following the January retirement of longtime Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles.

RELATED: DeSantis appoints Glen Gilzean as Orange County elections supervisor

On Thursday, a letter penned by Democratic U.S. Representative Maxwell Frost and backed by 13 Central Florida leaders raised concerns about how Gilzean is running the office, alleging a detailed plan is necessary to “curb public confusion” about some of the office’s recent actions.

One key concern: the office's delayed processing time for petition signatures, which blocked many local candidates from their chance to run without paying prohibitive filing fees, according to Frost’s letter.

Without a proper petition complete with the required number of verified signatures, Orange County candidates must pay a qualifying fee to run in an election: either 4% of the annual salary for nonpartisan candidate positions, or 6% for partisan candidate positions, according to the elections office. For this current campaign year, those fees run as high as $13,756.

“Some reports allege that the signature certification process took weeks, rolling right past the submission deadline,” Frost’s letter reads. “This has become a pain point for candidates of any party as folks are used to the 48-hour turnaround times of Supervisor Cowles' tenure.”

Christopher Heath, a public informations officer for Orange County’s Supervisor of Elections Office, said it’s important for citizens to have an accessible, affordable route to run for public office. That’s what the petition process provides — but only if those petition signatures are certified.

“While this is a process that is valuable — because you don't want to have money be a barrier to public service — it is still something that the office has to do its due diligence on,” Heath said. “It just really depends on how many [petitions] we get in, and how fast the staff is able to double-check those signatures and verify them.”

Orange County elections staff work “as hard as they can to get these done as fast as they can,” Heath said.

RELATED: What’s in a deadline? Friday is last day to file to run in Florida’s 2024 elections

Since Heath represents the elections office, not Gilzean himself, he could not speak to whether or not Frost’s Thursday letter had any influence on Gilzean’s decision to not run for the full term. Gilzean was not available Friday afternoon for an interview with Central Florida Public Media, Heath said.

For the rest of his term, Gilzean is “eager to continue what he’s started,” Heath said: including this weekend, when Gilzean will visit several churches and engage with voters during this weekend’s “Souls to the Polls” effort, ahead of Orlando District 5’s runoff election.

Come November, Gilzean will leave the next chapter of Orange County’s elections office to the next supervisor, according to his written statement.

Molly is an award-winning reporter with a background in video production and investigative journalism, focused on covering environmental issues for Central Florida Public Media.
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