Orange County candidates for sheriff, tax collector and the four other constitutional offices would be identified on this year’s ballot as Democrat, Republican or another party affiliation if a judge’s ruling holds. A 2014 ballot measure that earned 71 percent of the vote had changed those contests to nonpartisan races in which a candidate’s party affiliation is not provided on the ballot. But Circuit Judge Keith White, in an oral ruling on Thursday, said the county had no authority to determine how its constitutional officers are elected. That power is preempted by state election code. His decision was viewed as a win by Orange County Property Appraiser Rick Singh, Sheriff Jerry Demings, and Tax Collector Scott Randolph, who had sued to nullify the ballot measure, saying it had misled and confused voters and was motivated by Republican politicians.
The county won’t consider an appeal until the judge files a written order, said Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, a Republican, who added. “I’ll do everything I can do to see that the will of the electorate is upheld.”
The lawsuit was filed in October 2014 by the three Democratic office-holders, who had accused the mayor and the Republican-dominated county commission of misleading voters by “log rolling” the popular issue of term limits together with nonpartisanship into a single ballot measure.