Nahshon Nicks, a Democratic candidate for Jacksonville’s City Council At-Large Group 5, may have violated the city’s charter by living outside of the residency boundaries for the seat, according to public records.
When Nicks voted in August, his registration said he lived at a home on Moby Dick Drive West. That home was outside of At-Large Group 5. In October, he changed his registration to a Springfield home inside of the residency area, two days before he filed to run as a candidate.
If Nicks has lived in Springfield since July as the charter requires, he may have committed voter fraud by voting in August in the wrong state house and senate districts.
Willfully registering to vote somewhere other than your residential address is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. Whenever someone votes in Florida, they assert their voter registration information is correct.
If Nicks did live on Moby Dick Drive as he asserted when he voted in August, he wouldn’t qualify for the ballot now under the city’s strict residency rules, which require candidates to live for 183 consecutive days within their district or residency area.
In a previous case, a judge said a candidate changing where they were registered to vote or which home received a homestead exemption wasn’t enough to prove residency. The candidate had to actually “sleep there for 183 consecutive days (or nights) immediately before qualifying as a candidate.”
Before changing his voter registration to a home on Laura Street, Nicks had also obtained a home mortgage last May that required he and his wife live at that home on Morning Rise Circle, outside of the residency boundary, for at least a year, unless he got permission from the lender.
In October, Nicks, who ran last year as a candidate in a special election for City Council District 7, also paid three fines related to where he placed campaign signs. His payment receipt listed the Moby Dick Drive home address that was outside of the residency area.
Nicks is one of six candidates running for that At-Large council seat. One of his opponents, fellow Democrat Charles Garrison, has complained publicly about Nicks’ residency, and he filed a complaint with the Florida Commission on Ethics and the Florida Elections Commission. Neither commission has ruled on the complaints.
Nicks didn’t return calls, a text and an email requesting comment.
Nicks’ campaign manager, Corey Bradford, said the requests for comment were “getting to a point almost of harassment. Being his campaign manager, I really don’t want to have to file charges against you or Charles Garrison. … With you calling, texting, emailing, it’s really past the point of harassment, Andrew. There’s a difference between freedom of speech and harassment.”
Bradford said he couldn’t answer questions about where Nicks lived and how long he lived there. “From what I know he stays in Springfield,” Bradford said.
Bradford was himself a filed candidate for a different City Council district until The Tributary reported he had been registered to vote in Clay County until days before filing his candidacy paperwork.
“The Supervisor of Elections says he’s qualified,” Bradford said. “You’re not the determining factor if he’s qualified. You’re just a reporter.”
But the Duval elections office doesn’t investigate whether candidates live where they say they live, said Chief Elections Officer Robert Phillips. Florida law doesn’t allow the office to determine if a candidate is lying or telling the truth. Instead, the office’s role is “ministerial,” meaning it must accept the candidate’s filings as accurate.
“When we qualify candidates, we go by the four corners of the document they give us,” Phillips said. “We don’t research into the candidates.”
Five of the city’s 19 City Council seats are elected countywide, but candidates must live within certain residency areas.
This isn’t the first time an At-Large candidate has faced residency concerns.
In 2008, Jacksonville City Councilman Jay Jabour had to resign after a Duval County judge ruled he didn’t meet the residency requirements when he was elected. In that case, Jabour owned two homes, one in San Marco and one at the Beaches. He used the Beaches home to run for an At-Large seat, and he had registered to vote there and had used that home for his homestead exemption.
But he admitted that he spent the majority of the 183 nights before qualifying sleeping at the San Marco home, and the judge determined that meant Jabour wasn’t qualified to be a councilman.