Redesignated district boundaries impact September city election

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Posted March 3, 2023 | By Makayla Gray 

In advance of the Ocala City Council elections in September, the city has shuffled the boundaries for four of the five council districts. The new districts will impact potential candidates, but voters will see minimal changes. 

Current council members will remain in the districts they were elected to represent until the next election. The new boundaries affect districts 2, 3, 4 and 5. District 1 remains unaffected as the at-large or citywide district. The new City Council District Map 2022 is available on the city of Ocala’s website. It features an interactive map of the city and a select-box to view the city council districts. 

The Ocala City Council has the authority, by statute, to redraw district boundaries during its regular session in the second year following results from the U.S. census, which is performed every 10 years. The goal of redistricting is to draw boundaries for districts that ensure equal representation based on the population that lives within them. 

Although city elections are nonpartisan and citywide, allowing all registered voters to vote for all open seats no matter which district they reside in, the candidates representing those districts must reside in the district for which they run. 

The district redesignation ordinance was approved in December 2022. The council general election is on Sept. 19 and, if needed, a runoff election will be held on Nov. 21. Qualifying begins at noon on July 10 and ends at noon on July 14. 

City Clerk Angel Jacobs said the biggest change this election will be with the candidates, who must now locate their updated district zones and register to run in the district in which they live. 

Jacobs said voters will see minimal changes because they will continue to elect council members citywide. The only thing that may change is their council district representative person. 

Marion County Supervisor of Elections Wesley Wilcox said it is important for potential candidates to understand the first step in applying to be a candidate is to submit the required filing documents. Wilcox said many people believe they can immediately begin raising campaign funds once they have decided they want to run for City Council, but that is not the correct order of operation. 

“That’s a violation of Florida law,’’ he said. “Your first step is filing some documents declaring you as a candidate.” 

Wilcox hosts a training session for interested candidates to learn more about the election process and how they can properly navigate it from a business and legal standpoint. 

“Obviously, we don’t get into policy or any sort of politics or campaigning,’’ he said, “but it’s just the mechanism behind it. We try to at least educate our potential candidates as best we can.” 

This training session is voluntary and about an hour long. Wilcox said there is no confirmed date for the training at this time. 

Wilcox encourages those who intend to run for a seat on the city council to help raise interest about the elections and boost voter turnout. 

“Turnout is somewhat low in municipal elections,’’ he said. “It is imperative that they get out and excite their base, their voters, the best they can because it’s the candidates who literally, I feel, drive turnout.” 

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