Florida Senate District 12 hopeful Jim Norman has been placed back on the ballot for the Nov. 2 election by an appeals court.
Norman had been tossed from the ballot by a Leon County circuit judge who ruled he failed to disclose a $500,000 gift from a Tampa businessman, which his wife later used to purchase an Arkansas home.
The ruling by the lower court was the result of a lawsuit by Norman’s opponent in the primary, Florida Rep. Kevin Ambler, R-Tampa.
On Wednesday, the First District Court of Appeal reversed the lower court’s decision, saying it did not have jurisdiction to toss a candidate off the ballot based on disclosure violations.
“Courts must take care in post-election challenges to avoid disenfranchising voters without clear statutory warrant,” the First District’s opinion reads.
Instead, any problems with disclosure violations could have been filed with and decided on by the Florida Commission on Ethics prior to the primary election, according to the First District’s opinion. Even after an election, the legislature has the authority to prevent a candidate who wins from taking a seat should it be found he or she falsified disclosure forms, the opinion notes.
The court’s opinion states that its only authority to remove a candidate from the ballot after a primary election comes if constitutional requirements are violated. Those requirements include being 21 years of age, living in Florida for at least two years and living in the district for which a candidate is running, and a candidate must never have been convicted of a felony or been declared mentally ill. Norman meets all those requirements, the opinion states.