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Lawmakers register to vote correctly, but Latvala says residency issues remain

A review of Florida’s 160 lawmakers by the state’s Secretary of State has determined that all of them are registered to vote in the district for which they were elected to represent.

While that may not be news, doubts about where lawmakers live have been raised this summer, prompting Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford to order a review of their voter registrations.

On Friday, Maria Matthews, director of the Division of Elections, sent a letter to Gaetz and Weatherford stating that, as of Aug. 29, 2013, not one lawmaker is registered in the wrong district.

See Report

Gaetz and Weatherford have also asked the general counsels of each chamber to recommend standards that will be used to determine if lawmakers are breaking the law.

Such clarifications are necessary because case law is rather unclear about where a legislator must live. A 1947 Florida Supreme Court ruling says the best proof of where a lawmaker resides is where they say they do. That makes voter registration important.

But other case law says residency should be where the lawmaker actually lives, and can be verified through things like electric and water bills and where the mail is actually delivered.

The issue has come up chiefly because of Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, who contends that Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, doesn’t have a primary address in her senate district.

For Latvala, the voter registrations don’t prove anything.

“The first problem is that lawmakers were elected in November of last year,” Latvala said. “Sachs wasn’t registered in her district until two days after Election Day. Plus, I could change my voter registration to say I live in Timbuktu, but that doesn’t mean I live there.”

The Senate’s Ethics and Elections committee said he’ll continue to press for answers about the residency status of lawmakers.

“This issue isn’t going away,” Latvala said.