Two Candidates Could Get To ‘Judge’ Upcoming Century Special Election

March 15, 2023

Century has a special election for two town council seats on March 28. And in an almost preposterous twist created by the town charter, it appears that two of the four candidates may get to judge the election.

In a typical Florida election, a group composed of the county supervisor of elections, the chair of the county commission and a county court judge serve as what is called the “canvassing board”. And there are provisions to replace them with alternates if they are seeking, or they support someone seeking, election.

But in the Century charter — the document that establishes and governs the town — there is one line that’s causing a dispute prior to the special election.

“The council shall be the judge of the election…”

A canvassing board certifies the voting equipment. Reviews, and can reject, the signatures on vote by mail ballots. Reviews poorly marked ballots and reviews provision ballots — and decides if those votes should count. Recounts, certifying the election — those are all canvassing board duties.

But does “judge of the election” mean the town council will serve as a de facto canvassing board? That one candidate could determine that a vote for her opponent is valid or invalid?

Yes, according to emails from Century’s attorney Matt Dannheisser.

“The advisability of an existing councilmember being a judge of his or her own election notwithstanding, we nevertheless are constrained by the terms of the Town’s Charter,” Dannheisser wrote in an email to Town Clerk Leslie Howington. “Until the language is changed, we have no choice but to adhere to its terms.”

Two candidates — Shelisa McCall and Alicia Johnson — are currently serving as appointed interim town council members. Each is facing opposition from another candidate. At a recent council meeting, all four candidates and the three other council members agreed that “judging” the election by two candidates is just wrong.

A 2007 interlocal agreement signed by then-mayor Evelyn Hammond between the town and county says the Escambia County Supervisor of Elections will conduct elections in Century, at the town’s expense.

“There appears to be a disagreement between the Town and my attorney as to the makeup of the canvassing board for the special election,” Escambia County Supervisor of Elections David Stafford told “We have an interlocal agreement in place which we intend to follow. The first canvassing board activity will be the public testing of the voting equipment, which will occur on the Thursday before the election. It is my hope and expectation that some resolution will be reached prior to that time.

In a March 6 email from Assistant County Attorney to Dannheisser, Assistant County Attorney Christi Hankins stated that she contacted the Florida Department of State Division of Elections for guidance. The email was copied to Mayor Ben Boutwell and Town Clerk Leslie Howington, among others, but was not included in 12 pages of related emails provided to the council at their March 7 meeting.

Hankins continues that the phrase “judge of the election” appears in similar form in both the Florida Constitution and in Florida statutes.

“It is a statement the council will not delegate its powers to settle election challenges,” Hankins wrote.

“The appointment of the county canvassing board would not be a delegation of duty based on the language of multiple court opinions interpreting the Constitutional provision and the Florida Statutes. The understanding of the phrase comports with the Interlocal Agreement and the lack of need to address the county canvassing board issue in the agreement.”

The Century Town Council has voted to reach out to the Florida Attorney General’s Office for an opinion on the matter.

We will continue to follow this story and provide updates.


5 Responses to “Two Candidates Could Get To ‘Judge’ Upcoming Century Special Election”

  1. Citizen on March 15th, 2023 7:09 pm

    What is wrong with you people? Since 2007 David Stafford Supervisor of Elections has been in charge of running the elections for Town of Century and he and his staff have done an outstanding job and now all of a sudden someone thinks things should be done differently. Before 2007 it was always complaints of things not being done right they did not want the Mayor, Council, City Hall or maybe i should say the clerk handling the elections. Please let Mr. Stafford and his staff do the election and Mayor, Council and Clerk stay out of it

  2. Oversight on March 15th, 2023 5:09 pm

    The rule should always be that one must recuse him or herself when there is a conflict of interest. Certainly, being the judge of the election where one is running opposed would meet that standard. But it is Century, what could possibly go wrong? LOL!

  3. Chris on March 15th, 2023 3:09 pm

    Judging your own election. What could possibly go wrong?

  4. CJ Lewis on March 15th, 2023 9:42 am

    Here’s how they do it in Pensacola. The city has an interlocal agreement with the Supervisor that conducts the elections to include empanelling the canvasing board that provides the certified election results to the City Clerk. The City Council then meets to “declare” the election results. It’s a ministerial duty much as the Vice President declares the results of the Electoral College. I suspect that a court might find that the word “judge” as used in the Century Charter means the same as “declare” in the Pensacola Charter. This isn’t first election held in Century or before that when it was South Flomaton. What happened last time? The obvious emerging solution may be for the Supervisor of Elections to terminate the Interlocal Agreement and tell Century to run its own elections.

  5. SW on March 15th, 2023 4:32 am

    Century just can’t help but get in its own way.