Appeals court refuses to reconsider Levey qualification case

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A Florida appeals court refused on Monday to reconsider the case of Laura Rivero Levey, where a bank mix-up with her qualifying check kept the Miami-Dade Republican off the November ballot.

Earlier this month, the full 1st District Court of Appeal upheld a circuit court ruling saying Levey could not be added back to the ballot in House District 113, which includes part of Miami-Dade County.

With Levey off the ballot, incumbent Democratic state Rep. David Richardson won re-election without opposition.

An appeals court justice requested an “en banc” hearing, where the full court considers the case. On Monday, the court declined the hearing in a 9-6 ruling.

Levey sued after state elections officials disqualified Levey from the race, due to a problem with her qualifying check.

After she submitted a check for the $1,781.82 filing fee on June 17 with her qualifying papers, SunTrust Bank, where Levey held her campaign account, returned the check. Both Levey and election officials did not learn of the returned check until after the end of the qualifying period.

Levey tried to resubmit the fee with a cashier’s check, accompanied by a letter from the bank admitting it had made an error by returning the original check. Since the qualifying date passed, Florida law prevented the state from accepting the check.

Appeals Court Justice Scott Makar, writing in the dissent on Monday, said that although the state has an interest in an orderly qualifying process, the “balance decidedly shifts in favor of putting candidates on the ballot” in the situation such as Levey’s.

“As it currently stands, the 68,218 registered voters in House District 113 get the short end of the stick,” Makar continued. “There will be no robust candidate debates, no campaigning on important legislative issues affecting their futures, and no choice between candidates with alternative visions for their district; instead, they have a qualified candidate unnecessarily pushed to the sidelines and another qualified candidate who wins by default without running the race.”

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.