Andy Andrews can vote in Chiefland

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Judge's ruling exclusive to this businessman

By Lou Elliott Jones, Editor

Chiefland businessman A.D. “Andy” Andrews can vote in Chiefland city elections, but the judge who granted Andrews’ request says the ruling is exclusive to Andrews.

Andrews said he is very pleased with the ruling.

Andrews filed suit against Chiefland City Manager Grady Hartzog, in his role as the administrator of city elections; Levy County Supervisor of Elections Connie Asbell and Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning seeking to be declared a legally registered voter at his business address 13 S.E. First Street in Chiefland.

“I didn’t open the floodgates for any others” Eighth Circuit Judge David O. Glant said noting other business owners should not be looking to register at their business address.

He said the ruling is “for this case in this time.”

Assistant Attorney General Sabrina Redd, who represented Browning, and Asbell’s attorney Neal Lebasky, who was provided by the state association of election supervisors, sincerely congratulated Andrews and his attorney after the ruling.

They said they would have no comment on the outcome until after they consulted their clients. Hartzog does not have an attorney as the Chiefland City Commission ordered its attorney to withdraw from the case. The Secretary of State’s Office said they would have no comment on the ruling until it is signed and they can study it.

Andrews, who filed the suit in January following a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation into a voting complaint after the 2007 city elections, said state law says residency is where a person intends it to be and he intends his residency to be in Chiefland.

Andrews, who is publisher of the Levy County Journal and co-owns a business with Chiefland Mayor Teal Pomeroy, in addition to Andrews Nursery, said in the suit he has been registered to vote in Chiefland since 1964 and has never registered anywhere else, despite residing with his family in Alachua and Gainesville at times since then.

In the suit he also said his deriver license and the titles to all his family’s vehicles have always been at the Chiefland address, he receives his personal and business mail at the Chiefland address and keeps substantial personal belongings at the Chiefland address.

Although Andrews’ deposition of where he actually spends his time is sealed, lawyers said in court that Andrews had stated under oath that he spends his nights at the office sleeping in a recliner or on the floor of the office.

The attorney’s also said that Andrews’ accountant testified that although the Andrews’ file joint tax returns using the Chiefland office address and claim a home mortgage interest deduction, the home which is jointly titled belongs to his wife, Barbara Andrews.

Andrews has said in the past that the Gainesville home was purchased so his wife, who has a medical condition, can be close to specialized medical providers.

“The question is whether or not Mr. Andrews is entitled to vote in Chiefland,” Glant said noting that state law says residency is determined by where a person says that person intends it to be.

“The short answer is yes and is yes for these reasons,” Glant said.

The judge went on to say that while logically, to him, residency is where a person’s home is and where one interacts with their family and sleeps regularly, the law sets a different standard that he had to follow in his ruling.

“It is essentially determined by a state of mind,” and the facts to back that up, Glant said.

“In 44 years Mr. Andrews hasn’t made a different claim than he has done now,” Glant said. “The facts just don’t challenge the intent.”

The judge said he was bound to rule on the facts presented, including those in the sealed documents which are due to be destroyed in 60 days under a previous order, not to interpret the facts.

“The Florida Legislature can change the law,” he said. “And the Florida Supreme Court can change it by giving it a new interpretation. I don’t have that luxury of interpreting the law the way it ought to be.”

Glant also noted that even though the defense attorneys noted Andrews’ claim violates Chiefland’s zoning ordinances which prohibit residing in commercially zoned area, Glant said the voting law does not mention zoning.

Andrews residence at his office is contrary to the city’s zoning ordinance the city does not actively enforce the code it only reacts to code complaints, city Building and Zoning Official Bill Hammond has said in public meetings.

Andrews’ attorney Jack Reed is drawing up the order for Glant to sign.