GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Buoyed by a 61.39 percent voter turnout, Clay County voters said no to three proposed county charter amendments but gave the greenlight to a fourth amendment placing term limits on constitutional officers. A total of 93,997 of Clay County’s 153,119 voters cast ballots.
The amendment to give county commissioners three, four-year terms instead of the two, four-years terms failed by a vote of 60,416 no votes to 26,882 yes votes or 69.21 percent to 30.79 percent. The measure was placed on the ballot over the summer by the Board of County Commissioners after the BCC-appointed Charter Review Commission failed to pass a measure recommending the measure.
The amendment that would have raised county commissioner salaries over the next four years failed with 51,871 no votes to 33,228 yes votes or 60.95 percent no to 39.05 yes. The measure would have wiped out a 2010 measure that voters passed freezing BCC member salaries at $37,000 per year. CRC members claimed that having a higher salary for county commissioners would result in better quality candidates running for office.
The amendment that would have ended the appointment of a Charter Review Commission every four years and make it necessary to empanel a CRC every eight years instead, failed with 69,290 no votes to 17,132 no votes or 80.18 percent no and 19.82 percent yes votes.
The only county charter amendment to pass was one imposing term limits on the county’s constitutional officers passed with 47,970 yes votes to 37,646 no votes or 56.03 yes votes to 43.97 no votes. The vague amendment did not state specific officers that would be affected by the measure.
Another statewide measure of note is Amendment 4, which will restore voting rights to residents who had previously been convicted of certain felonies. The amendment specifically excludes those individuals who have committed murder or a felony sexual offense. In terms of local numbers, 48,948 Clay County voters said yes to Amendment 4, while 42,899 voted no. On the state level, 64.47 percent voted yes, and 35.53 percent voted no. State constitutional amendments require a 60 percent approval to become law.
Clay voters ushered two incumbents back into office on Nov. 6.
County Commission Chairman Gavin Rollins of Keystone Heights defeated Democratic challenger Cheryl Owen by a vote of 13,259 votes to Owen’s 2,655 votes.
Incumbent District 5 School Board Member Ashley Gilhousen of Lake Asbury defeated political newcomer Lynne Hirabayashi Chafee by a vote of 49,505 votes to Chafee’s 33,632 votes. Gilhousen’s campaign got a last-minute boost from publicity surrounding a lawsuit she filed claiming Chafee did not reside in the district when she qualified to run. At press time, the lawsuit remained unresolved.
In terms of voter habits, Early Voting once again proved successful as 37,416 Clay County voters opted to avoid the long lines on Nov. 6. On election day, 36,362 voters went to their neighborhood precinct to cast ballots. Another 20,219 voters opted to vote by mail this cycle, therefore allowing them more time to peruse the lengthy state constitutional amendments.
Supervisor of Elections Chris Chambless said the Nov. 6 results are considered unofficial until his office certifies the votes in 10 days. The 10-day window is allowed for overseas and military ballots to be received and counted as long as the ballots are postmarked on Nov. 6.