Frequently Asked Questions
- In addition to investigating sworn complaints and hearing appeals of automatic fines, does Florida Elections Commission handle other types of cases?
- Where can I find the dates and locations of the Commission meetings?
- Where can I get an advisory opinion concerning election laws?
- Who can file a complaint with the Florida Elections Commission?
- How do I file a complaint with the Florida Elections Commission?
- May I file more than one complaint?
- When a complaint is filed, what are the restrictions concerning the confidentiality of the complaint?
- Will the person named in a complaint be told that the complaint has been filed?
- How long does it take a Florida Elections Commission investigator to complete the investigation of the complaint?
- Will the person under investigation receive a copy of the report of the investigation?
- What are the Commission's procedures for the probable cause hearing?
- If the Commission does not find probable cause, what happens to my case?
- If the Commission finds probable cause, am I entitled to a hearing?
- If probable cause is found and the person under investigation is an elected officer, can the Florida Elections Commission remove the officer from office?
- Can the Florida Elections Commission arrest someone for violating an election law?
- My filing officer has fined me for filing my campaign report late. How do I appeal the automatic fine to the Florida Elections Commission?
- Will the filing officer waive my fine if I provide him with credible evidence of unusual circumstances?
- What happens to my appeal if I do not request a hearing?
- Why does the Commission investigate some election law violations and fail to investigate others in the same race or community?
- Can candidates or committees file amended campaign reports with the Florida Elections Commission?
- Can the Florida Elections Commission's investigators come to our municipality and remove all campaign signs in the right-of-way?
Yes. The Commission hears cases referred from filing officers where a candidate or committee has failed to file a report or statement, including campaign reports, waivers of campaign reports, annual reports, office account reports, and statements appointing a registered agent. Infrequently, the Commission hears appeals from committees that have been dissolved by its filing officer, and from members of county canvassing boards appealing fines imposed by the Department of State for late certification of election results.
All of the Commission meetings are in Tallahassee and the Commission advertises its meetings in the Florida Administrative Register (FAR), which is published by the Department of State. The Commission's website also lists the dates and locations of the meetings. Most of the Commission's meetings are open to the public. However, periodically, parts of the meetings may be closed to the public because the Commission is handling confidential matters (e.g., Probable Cause Hearings).
For advice concerning the election laws, review the publications of the Division of Elections at its website, http://election.dos.state.fl.us, or telephone the Division at (850) 245-6200 and ask for the General Counsel's Office. While the Commission has authority to investigate and adjudicate sworn complaints, it is not authorized to issue advisory opinions. See Section 106.26(13), Florida Statutes.
Any person having personal information or information other than hearsay regarding alleged violations of Chapters 104 and 106, Florida Statutes, can file a complaint. The Commission cannot investigate a violation until it receives a legally sufficient sworn complaint. See Section 106.25(2), Florida Statutes.
You can download a copy of the Commission's complaint form from its website. Pursuant to Rule 2B-1.0025, Florida Administrative Code, your complaint must meet the following criteria in order to be considered sufficient:
When completed, mail the complaint with your original signature to the Florida Elections Commission at 107 West Gaines Street, Suite 224, Collins Building, Tallahassee, FL 32399-1050. The Commission will not accept faxed or emailed complaints because an original signature is required.
- The Commission's complaint form has been used, and all information requested by the form has been provided on the form;
- A single respondent has been named in the complaint. A complaint cannot be filed against more than one person;
- The complaint has not been submitted anonymously;
- All exhibits or attachments referenced in the complaint have been included with the complaint;
- The complaint was signed by the complainant under oath in the presence of a notary public or other person authorized by law to administer oaths;
- The complaint contains the original signature of the complainant;
- The complaint alleges a violation of Chapter 104 or 106, Florida Statutes;
- The complaint contains specific facts upon which the complainant bases the allegation of a violation of law;
- The complaint alleges a violation that occurred within two years of the date the complaint is filed with the Commission; and
- The complaint is based on personal information or information other than hearsay.
Yes. However, if you file more than one complaint against the same person, the Commission is barred from investigating the second complaint if it is based upon facts or allegations that were raised or could have been raised in the first complaint. See Section 106.25(2), Florida Statutes.
Every sworn complaint filed with the Commission, every investigation and investigative report, or other paper of the Commission, and every proceeding of the Commission with respect to a violation of Chapter 104 or Chapter 106, Florida Statutes, is exempt from the public records and open meetings laws until the Commission determines whether there is probable cause or no probable cause that a violation occurred. See Section 106.25(7) and Chapter 119, Florida Statutes.
Confidentiality provisions do not bind the person who filed the complaint. However, confidentiality provisions do bind the person against whom the complaint is filed, unless he or she files a written waiver with the Agency Clerk. See Section 106.25(7), Florida Statutes.
Automatic fine cases are not confidential.
Yes. Within five working days of receiving the complaint, Commission staff will review the complaint to ensure that it meets all of the requirements of Rule 2B-1.0025(1), Florida Administrative Code. If the complaint does not comply with any of those requirements or is otherwise incomplete, Commission staff will return it to the complainant and identify the defect(s), which the complainant may then attempt to cure by resubmitting the complaint. See Rule 2B-1.0025(1), Florida Administrative Code.
If the complaint is not returned to the complainant as indicated above, within five working days of receiving the complaint, the Commission will mail a copy of the complaint to the person against whom the complaint is filed. The respondent shall have 14 days after receipt of the complaint to file a response, and a determination of legal sufficiency of the complaint may not be made during that time period. If the complaint is determined to be legally insufficient, the complainant and the respondent will be notified. The complainant will have 14 days to correct the stated ground of insufficiency using FEC Form 2, which can be found on the "Forms" tab of this web site. If the complainant does not respond or does not provide information that corrects the stated ground of insufficiency, the case will be closed. If the complaint is determined to be legally sufficient, the respondent shall be notified of such finding by letter. See Section 106.25(2), Florida Statutes, and Rule 2B-1.0025(2)-(5), Florida Administrative Code.
The length of an investigation varies depending on the complexity of the complaint, the number of other cases assigned to the investigator, the cooperation of the person under investigation and other witnesses, and the meeting schedule of the Commission. In addition, the Commission's procedures allow the person under investigation time to respond to the complaint. The investigation of complaints alleging violations of Section 104.27(2) or 104.2715, Florida Statutes, is expedited pursuant to Rule 2B-1.0041, Florida Administrative Code.
Yes. After the report of investigation is completed, the Agency Clerk will mail the person under investigation a copy of the report. The person has 14 days to file a response to the report. If the person timely files a response to the investigator's report, the Commission will consider the response when determining probable cause. In addition, the Agency Clerk will mail the person under investigation a copy of the staff recommendation on probable cause, and the person under investigation has 14 days to file a response to the staff recommendation. If the person timely files a response to the staff's probable cause recommendation, the Commission will consider the response when determining probable cause. See Section 106.25, Florida Statutes.
The Chair of the Commission will call your case at the time stated in your notice of hearing or as soon thereafter as the parties can be heard. Staff will summarize the case and make a recommendation to the Commission on probable cause. After staff's presentation, the person under investigation or his or her attorney, if one is present, may make a brief oral statement to the Commission. No testimony or other evidence will be accepted at the hearing. The person filing the complaint is also permitted to attend the hearing, but he or she is not permitted to make a statement. The probable cause hearing is confidential and closed to the public. Additional information concerning the procedures is otherwise included in the notice of hearing. See Section 106.25, Florida Statutes.
If no probable cause is found, the Commission will send the person under investigation a written order dismissing the complaint and closing the case approximately 20 days after the probable cause hearing. Upon a finding of no probable cause, the case becomes a matter of public record, except as otherwise provided by Section 106.25, Florida Statutes.
Yes. If your case involves disputed issues of material facts, you may request a formal hearing before the Commission or the Division of Administrative Hearings. If your case does not involve disputed issues of material facts, or the only disputed issue of fact is willfulness, you are entitled to an informal hearing before the Commission. Approximately 20 days after the probable cause hearing, the Commission will send the person under investigation an order of probable cause citing the sections of law charged and identifying the hearing options available. If the Agency Clerk does not receive a written hearing election from the respondent within 30 days of the date that the order is entered, the case will be sent to the Commission for an informal hearing.
The Commission has no authority to remove an officer from public office.
An election law violation is a civil, not a criminal, matter. The Commission may impose a civil fine if the Commission finds that a violation has occurred, but the Commission has no authority to arrest someone or send someone to jail or prison. However, there are criminal violations within the Florida Election Code that may be prosecuted by a state attorney.
To appeal a fine imposed pursuant to Section 106.07(8), 106.0703(7) or 106.29(3), Florida Statutes, the candidate, chair of a political committee, treasurer of an electioneering communications organization, chair of a political party executive committee or the leader of an affiliated party committee shall file a notice of appeal with the Commission. The notice of appeal shall be filed with the Agency Clerk, and a copy filed with the filing officer, within 20 days of the appealing party's receipt of notice that a fine is being imposed. The notice of appeal shall contain:
- The name, address, and telephone number of the appealing party;
- A copy of the notice of imposition of fine issued by the filing officer; and
- A request for hearing if a personal appearance before the Commission is desired.
If no hearing request is made, the appeal shall be decided solely on the documents submitted by the appealing party and Commission staff. The appealing party shall have 20 days from acceptance of the appeal to submit any documents supporting the appeal. Any subsequent supplemental documents shall be filed no later than five business days before the hearing.
Failure to timely file a notice of appeal shall result in waiver of the right to appeal the fine and a final order upholding the fine shall be entered by the Chairman of the Commission without further notice.
No. Only the Commission can waive the fine. The filing officer's duty is to notify a candidate or committee of the failure to file a report, to determine the amount of the fine based upon the formula provided by statute, and to notify the candidate or committee of the amount of the fine due. See Division of Elections Opinion 00-04.
When the Agency Clerk receives your notice of appeal, she will send you a letter explaining unusual circumstances and requesting that you send written evidence of unusual circumstances. If no hearing request is made, the appeal shall be decided solely on the documents submitted by the appealing party and Commission staff. At the meeting, the Commission will review all written evidence you submitted and decide the appeal. The appealing party shall have 20 days from acceptance of the appeal to submit any documents supporting the appeal. Any subsequent supplemental documents shall be filed no later than five business days before the hearing.
The Commission can only investigate alleged violations when a person files a legally sufficient complaint with the Commission or when the Division of Elections refers a matter to the Commission. The Commission has no authority to investigate without a sworn legally sufficient complaint or referral from the Division regardless of how serious the offense.
Campaign reports must be filed with the filing officer of the candidate or committee. Filing officers include the Division of Elections, county supervisors of elections, and municipal clerks. The Commission is not a filing officer for elections.
The Commission has no authority to remove any campaign literature. However, some municipalities and counties have provisions for the removal of campaign signs. Therefore, you should contact your supervisor of elections or city clerk if you want signs in the right-of-way removed.
If you have any questions about the procedures for remitting the 1% Election Assessments, please contact our agency at (850) 922-4539.