The Ocala City Council is hoping to fill the open District 2 seat next month in an election conducted solely by mail.
The fourth election to fill the seat vacated by longtime Councilwoman Mary Sue Rich is scheduled for May 19. It pits the top two vote-getters from the March 17 election – Ire Bethea Sr. and Lonnie Hooks III – against each other because neither one of them nor Ronald E. Landers Jr. received the required 50 percent plus one vote to win the seat.
But the upcoming May 19 election could very well take place amid the continuing COVID-19 outbreak so Councilmembers are hoping to use an unprecedented method of all mail-in ballots.
Marion County’s Supervisor of Elections, Wesley Wilcox, is a huge proponent of mail-in ballots but told Councilmembers recently that neither he nor them have the authority to restrict the election to that method only. He said he was sending out a letter to the approximately 37,000 registered voters in Ocala to encourage them to request mail-in ballots. He also pointed out that he can’t send those ballots out by mail unless residents request them.
Because of the continuing Coronavirus outbreak – 47 patients had been identified in Marion County as of Sunday morning – the City Council has agreed to have Wilcox seek permission from the state for a strictly mail-in ballot election.
The recent special election was necessary because the candidate who initially won the vacated seat, Tyrone Eugene Oliver Jr., was disqualified because he is a convicted felon. The City Council refused to seat him in December and called for the special election to fill the vacant seat.