ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – “Do you even live in the district?” This question typically flies at a political candidate during a campaign in an effort to invalidate him or her if the candidate’s address isn’t already in the district. Candidates have used this question for disinformation campaigns against their political opponents. Or if the candidate doesn’t make the attack, voters in the candidate’s base do. In some cases, voters supporting a candidate with this line of thinking are actually sincere–but they happen to be sincerely wrong and spread the disinformation to other voters. The truth is, whether a state or federal candidate lives in the district he or she is running for at the start of or during the campaign doesn’t affect their election qualification or their chance of winning.
Given the amount of documents required to run for public office (and properly qualify by the respective deadline), there is plenty of opportunity for errors, and all it takes is one single clerical error to disqualify a candidate. This happened most recently to Scotty Moore, Republican candidate for Congressional District 9. He filed early and would’ve vied for the chance to defeat incumbent Democratic Congressman Darren Soto in November, but Moore erroneously completed a State office oath instead of a federal one when he filed to run.
Does a Candidate Have to Live Within the District to Run for That Office?
For state and federal elections, the short answer is no. According to the Florida Division of Elections, federal candidates (U.S. House and Senate) don’t need to live in their respective district, only in the state. The same is true for Florida governor, lieutenant governor and the governor’s cabinet. State House, State Senate and judicial candidates are required to be a resident of the district upon taking office.
In other words, while a state candidate is running for that seat, he or she can in fact have an address outside of the target district. The important thing is that he or she makes sure to secure an address before their primary date (if theirs turns out to be a primary election-only scenario), or before the general election date, because in the event the candidate wins said election, that is the moment in which he or she “takes office.” Therefore, their address would need to have already been updated to somewhere within the target district by the applicable election day.
The time frame for living in the larger overall residency in question–be it U.S. citizenship for president, vice president, or U.S. House and Senate; or Florida state residency for governor, lieutenant governor, or Florida House and Senate–changes depending on the office being sought.
For local office (city and county), it’s important to reference the respective county’s Supervisor of Elections or city/town government website, since local jurisdictions have different requirements. For example, here’s what the Orange County Supervisor of Elections lists for its candidates.
According to the Florida Division of Elections website, here are the residency requirements:
- President of the United States: a natural born citizen and resident of the U.S. for the last 14 years.
- United States Senator: a citizen of the U.S. for at least 9 years and resident of the state when elected.
- United States Representative in Congress: a citizen of the U.S. for at least 7 years and resident of the state when elected.
- Governor and Lieutenant Governor: an elector and resident of the state for the preceding 7 years.
- Cabinet Members: an elector and resident of the state for the preceding 7 years.
- State Senator: an elector and resident of the district upon taking office and a resident of the state for at least 2 years prior to election.
- State Representative: an elector and resident of the district upon taking office and a resident of the state for at least 2 years prior to election.
- State Attorney: an elector and resident of the circuit upon taking office.
- Public Defender: an elector and resident of the circuit upon taking office.
- Justice of the Supreme Court: an elector and resident of the state upon taking office.
- Judge, District Court of Appeal: an elector and resident of the territorial jurisdiction of the court upon taking office.
- Circuit Judge: an elector and resident of the territorial jurisdiction of the court upon taking office.
Why Knowing Florida Election Law Matters
It helps for voters and candidates alike to be informed of what Florida election law says about candidate residencies. On the local level, it helps to know where to look. Law enforcement will tell anyone “ignorance of the law is no excuse,” and the same is true for elections. The more voters know, the better informed they are, and the better informed they are, the more mature political campaigns and elections can be, instead of the emotional parroting that’s become prevalent in state and federal elections over the past decade. The political landscape has just gotten a blank canvas with the recently redrawn districts. It’s important now more than ever before for voters to have factual, solid knowledge of the political process and the candidates on their ballots.
The Florida primary election happens August 23, 2022. The general election follows on November 8, 2022.
Mellissa Thomas is Editor for Florida National News. | email@example.com