Lawsuit seeks to remove Jacksonville candidate from ballot

Published on February 23, 2023 at 11:08 am

Two Democrats competing for a Jacksonville City Council seat may first have to face off in court.

Democrat Charles Garrison filed suit against fellow Democrat Nahshon Nicks and Duval Elections Supervisor Mike Hogan, pushing the court to declare Nicks not qualified for office and decertify him from the March 21 ballot.

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Garrison and Nicks are two of the six candidates filed for the City Council At-Large Group 5 election. All Duval County voters can vote in the at-large race.

As The Tributary reported last week, documents suggest Nicks may have violated the Jacksonville city charter by living outside of the residential district for the at-large seat. The city’s ordinance defines residence as the place where a person sleeps.

Nicks has not responded to requests for comment.

“It’s unfortunate that a lawsuit needed to be filed, but it is the only recourse that qualified candidates and voters have to confirm a candidate’s qualifications,” said Leslie Jean-Bart, Garrison’s lawyer. “It’s not like this is what we want to do, but it’s what we can do.”

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The charter requires that candidates have lived within the area since July 12, 2022, but, until October of last year, days before Nicks filed to run, he was registered to vote outside the area.

Nicks also voted in August using an address outside of the residency area. If he didn’t live where he said he did when he voted, he may have violated Florida law.

“For Defendant NICKS to maintain that he is qualified to be a candidate for Jacksonville City Council, At-Large Group 5 and that he resided within the residence area of At-Large Group 5 pursuant to Section 5.04,” the lawsuit said, “he would have to admit that he knowingly and intentionally cast a ballot on August 20, 2022, based on an address and precinct he no longer resided at.”

He also had an active JEA account for a home outside of the residency district when he filed to run, and he had a mortgage that required he live in a house outside of the area.

Florida law prohibits the elections office from fact-checking a candidate’s qualifying paperwork. Instead, Hogan’s office must accept any candidate’s paperwork as if it were true.

Five of the city’s 19 City Council seats are elected countywide, but those At-Large candidates must still live within certain residency districts.

Nicks was previously a candidate for City Council in 2019 and in a special election last August.

This story is published through a partnership between WJCT News and The Tributary

author image Andrew Pantazi edits and reports for The Tributary. He previously worked as a reporter at The Florida Times-Union.
author image Andrew Pantazi edits and reports for The Tributary. He previously worked as a reporter at The Florida Times-Union.