The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council approved the first readings of several ordinances Tuesday, Oct. 5 regarding the way town elections are held, including qualifying dates for the March 2022 council election and calling for referendums to amend election procedures in the town charter.
The Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Office has provided notice that all county municipalities with elections scheduled in March will be required to move back their candidate qualifying periods so that all candidate names will be provided to the supervisor’s office 95 days prior to the municipal election date. The town charter currently provides that the qualifying period for March elections is in January, which is short of the new mandate.
The first ordinance provides that for the next municipal election, scheduled to be held on March 8, 2022, that the qualifying period be set to noon on the second Tuesday in November through noon on the fourth Tuesday of November.
Vice Mayor Laura Danowski asked if a referendum is necessary to change the qualifying dates, and Town Attorney Elizabeth Lenihan said that this particular ordinance was to specifically change the qualifying dates just for the upcoming election. Separate ordinances would deal with referendums to remove the old qualifying dates from the charter and add the new ones.
Councilwoman Phillis Maniglia made a motion to approve the ordinance, which carried 4-0 with Councilwoman Marianne Miles absent.
The second ordinance approved by the council called for a referendum on March 8 to remove the old qualifying dates from the charter. Maniglia made a motion to approve the ordinance, which also carried 4-0.
The third ordinance called for a referendum to add the new candidate qualifying dates to the charter. Maniglia made a motion to approve that ordinance, which also carried 4-0.
A fourth ordinance called for a referendum on March 8 to amend signature requirements in the charter to provide that signatures on ordinances and resolutions be completed by the mayor rather than all council members.
Lenihan said the change is legally sufficient and would create efficiencies in the finalization of town documents.
Danowski said she felt it was important that ordinances and resolutions be signed by all council members. Lenihan said that the proposed ordinance applied only to ordinances and resolutions that have been approved by the council.
“They are approved by the full council, but this is just to be signed,” Lenihan said.
Town Manager Jamie Titcomb stressed that no change is being made to how ordinances and resolutions are approved by the full council.
“The signature piece becomes a ministerial function,” he said.
Councilwoman Marge Herzog agreed that requiring only the mayor to sign would increase efficiency.
“You’re handed a stack of maybe 25 or 50 papers,” Herzog said. “You don’t have a chance to read what the ordinance is. You’re just taking it on the faith of the clerk and the staff.”
Town Clerk Lakisha Burch said all ordinances and resolutions are reviewed and approved twice by the council. Titcomb added that the signing is just a formality.
Maniglia made a motion to approve the ordinance, which carried 3-1 with Danowski opposed and Miles absent.
A fifth ordinance called for a referendum on March 8 to amend the makeup of the canvassing board as noted in the town charter.
Lenihan explained that Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Wendy Sartory Link had notified the town that she will no longer participate in canvassing boards for municipal elections, but has offered to have the municipalities designate the supervisor to establish a single canvassing board for all municipal elections.
If the town council does not accept this change, the town would have a separate canvassing board made up of the town clerk and two residents. The town clerk would certify the election results.
Titcomb said the canvassing board’s responsibilities include examining ballots in close elections that might not have been marked properly or signatures that do not appear to match the voter records.
Danowski made a motion to approve the ordinance, which carried 4-0.