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The Villages
Friday, July 12, 2024

Last-minute write-ins will eliminate thousands of voters in Sumter County

A trio of last-minute write-in candidates will eliminate thousands of voters from participating in the upcoming Sumter Commission races.

It was a busy day Thursday at the Sumter County Supervisor of Elections Office when the write-ins showed up to announce their intent to run in the Republican races for Sumter Commission seats in Districts 1, 3 and 5.

Patricia Francis

Patricia “Pat” Francis of the Village of Bridgeport at Miona Shores, widow of former Sumter County Commission Mike Francis, filed as a write-in in District 1. The District 1 seat is held by Villager Roberta Ulrich, who is not seeking re-election. Villager Deb Butterfield is facing fellow resident Mary Lazich, who has raised a staggering $82,250 in campaign contributions, fueled by the Developer of The Villages. Villager Jimmy Hagan filed to run in District 1, but has not qualified for the ballot.

Kevin Burke
Kevin Burke

Kevin Burke of KB Home & Garden and KB Lawn & Landscaping has filed to run as a write-in in District 3, where County Chairman Craig Estep is being challenged by Todd Coon, who raised $109,993 in campaign contributions, thanks to the Developer. Burke, Coon’s would-be “opponent,” also donated $1,000 to the Coon campaign.

Commissioner Oren Miller is being challenged by Don Wiley in District 5, who raised $86,000 in the most-recent reporting period, once again, thanks in large part to the Developer. They have been joined in the GOP race by write-in candidate William Statom of the Village of Osceola Hills at Soaring Eagle.

There are no Democrats running in the November election, therefore the Aug. 20 GOP primary would have been a “universal” primary, which would have meant that Democrats and No Party Affiliation voters would have been allowed determine the outcome of the election, per state law. However, there is a loophole. If a write-in candidate is fielded, the members of the opposition party and independent voters are blocked from determining who will fill those three Sumter Commission seats.

It’s a tactic that’s been used before to try to manipulate the outcome of the election of Sumter County commissioners.

Pete Wahl and Jerry Prince

In 2020, Villager Jerry Prince and the late Pete Wahl were widely mocked as the “fake candidates” when their last-minute write-in candidacies were unmasked. It would have eliminated 45,000 voters from taking part in the balloting. However, many angry Democrats and NPAs changed their voter registration and derailed the Developer’s candidates.

How do you feel about this election tactic? Share your thoughts at letters@villages-news.com

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