HomeLocal governmentCornell raises possibility of putting an amendment on the ballot to overturn single-member districts
Cornell raises possibility of putting an amendment on the ballot to overturn single-member districts
December 7, 2022
BY JENNIFER CABRERA
ALACHUA COUNTY, Fla. – During General Public Comment at the December 6 Alachua County Commission Special Meeting, Kali Blount talked about the mailers that were sent from Leading for our Future PAC with quotes from County Commissioner Chuck Chestnut, then-State Senate Candidate Rodney Long, and the NAACP, supporting the Single-Member District Charter Amendment. Blount said he received multiple mailers and also saw billboards that told him to vote “yes” on single-member districts. He said he saw a woman at the Publix on Main Street with a “giant handful” of the handouts, “and turned out she knew next to nothing about the topic, that she was being paid to distribute these things.”
Blount urged “the circulation of… a list, if we had a list of all the people who said, ‘My vote was influenced by that publicity that I now know was a lie,’ that the outcome would have absolutely been affected… If there were a judge to talk to right now, or a state election commission, that vote should be thrown out and voted all over again.” He added that it is “insidious” that local governments can’t spend money on “public education about ballot issues, so this false information that went out at the last minute, just before the election, could not be counteracted by the body most affected.”
Blount also said that State Rep. Chuck Clemons and State Senator Keith Perry “should be barred from public office for deliberately distorting an election in that manner. This is very dirty politics… I’m afraid of what our [Board of County Commissioners] will look like in the future.”
Commissioner Ken Cornell said that “not less than 20 people, probably, give me that same speech on the phone,” and he asked if there was any objection to asking the County Attorney’s Office to prepare a memo “which the public could read… if the public would like to go through the process of putting that issue back on the ballot, what’s involved in accordance with our local constitution.” He asked if anybody objected to that, and a few responses of “Nope” could be heard.
Cornell continued, “I think we know the Charter Review [Commission] can put it on, three of us could put something on the ballot, but I think the public was asking me, if we wanted to put it on the ballot, what’s involved, what are the dates, what are the timelines, how many number of ballots need to be signed, who needs to approve the language. That’s a lot more, so if the Attorney’s Office could provide a memo that the public could just have and read and understand, that would be great.”
Chestnut said that as a canvassing board member, he couldn’t be involved in any political campaigns, and the “most shocking thing” to him in the single-member district campaign “was the single-member district item with my photo. And that photo and comments were not mine. They were not mine. I didn’t give permission for that to occur, you know. And so I was walking a fine line between serving the canvassing board and responding to something that was false, you know.” He said the legislature might need to get involved to give canvassing board members “the authority to at least respond to something that is false.”
He added that he thinks the NAACP “is looking to take legal action. I don’t know where they are with that process, but I will join in that process. So I just think this dirty politics stuff and this false information has to stop. And if it’s our right to put it back on the ballot in the future, I support it… And please don’t use my name like that again, because then I think that I’ll go down fighting for my right as an individual and my name and not to defame my name in that manner, to trick people into voting for something that I did not agree to.”
Although it is true that Chestnut did not support this year’s charter amendment ballot initiative, the quote is accurate and is taken from a 1994 Gainesville Sun article about adopting single-member districts for the City of Gainesville. The quote can be seen in context here.
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