Issue: Our condominium election is approaching and the candidates have been publically campaigning against one another. One candidate has circulated an email that another candidate was arrested ten years ago in Ohio for a felony and that she is not eligible for public office. I am not sure if this information is verified, but is she eligible?
Answer: First, without commenting on whether the email is defamatory, the answer is that the candidate may not be eligible. The Florida Statutes provide that a convicted felon “is not eligible for board membership unless such felon’s civil rights have been restored for at least 5 years as of the date such person seeks election to the board.”
Civil rights include, among others, the right to vote, the right to hold office, the right to serve on a jury, and the right to bear arms. Assuming that the Ohio felony would likewise be considered a felony in Florida, the statute requires that the candidate’s civil rights be restored for at least five years. Although the felony occurred more than five years ago, the candidate would not be eligible unless all civil rights (including the right to hold public office) have actually been restored for at least five years.
In a 2010 arbitration case, a candidate previously pled guilty to one count of federal mail fraud. All her civil rights were restored in 2004, except for the right to bear arms. In that case, although most of her federal and Florida civil rights were restored, the candidate was ruled ineligible because a partial restoration of rights was insufficient. Thus, if the circulated email is accurate, the candidate is not eligible.