Juan-Carlos “JC” Planas served in the Florida State House of Representatives as a Republican from 2002 to 2010. But after the 2020 election, Planas registered as a Democrat because of what he saw as baseless claims of fraud in the 2020 elections.
Now, Planas wants to become Miami-Dade County’s first elected Supervisor of Elections to bolster faith in fair and accurate elections on both sides of the aisle.
“I want to be a champion for democracy, in addition to being an administrator of the largest division of elections in the state of Florida, and I want to work to make sure all voters know that what I care about more than anything is getting this right, on time and transparently,” Planas told WLRN.
The head of elections was previously a nonpartisan position appointed by the county mayor, and, since 2015, the seat was held by Christina White.
White was appointed by former Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, a Republican, and served under Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, a Democrat, since 2020.
Though she initially signaled that she may run to keep her position in the 2024 election, White bowed out late last month. She told the Miami Herald she would instead focus on running the county’s Elections Department through the 2024 election cycle.
Planas enters the fray against two opponents: Democrat Willis Perry Howard, a campaign consultant, and Republican Ruth Ann Swanson — a former U.S. congressional candidate who openly denied the results of the 2020 election.
Howard, 49, told the Miami Herald he’s a loyal Democrat, a jab at White, the current elections head, who switched from “No Party Affiliation” to Democrat earlier this year.
“I’m running as a tried-and-true Democrat,” he said. “I was born a Democrat. I never switched.”
Asked last week about her denial of the 2020 elections results, Swanson refused to talk about it when asked by a Miami Herald reporter. “I’m not giving my opinion on that,” she said.
Election denialism within his former party is what drove Planas to switch sides, he said, and why he wants to prove to voters that elections departments can be trusted.
“When I started seeing folks questioning the legitimacy of the 2020 election and started seeing that there was no credibility whatsoever to any of these accusations, I realized that I needed to finally switch parties and become a Democrat. And I have not looked back since,” Planas said.
Planas is no stranger to elections law. As an elections attorney and adjunct professor of law at St. Thomas University, he’s been brought on as legal counsel for numerous lawsuits involving local municipal elections. In 2020, Planas served as one of the lawyers involved in a recall effort to remove Miami City Commissioner Joe Carollo.
Amid changes to Florida’s election laws — including a controversial restriction on vote-by-mail championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis which requires voters to request mailed ballots every two years rather than every four — Planas said he hopes to reach voters who might fall through the cracks, including those who may not vote for him.
“There are going to be elderly voters who have always expected to receive their ballot who are not going to receive it, and those are the ones that are at risk of being disenfranchised,” Planas said.
“So I have to sometimes work twice as hard for the folks that are not going to vote for me because I need to show how invested I am in the preservation of democracy and of this system.”
The Miami-Dade County Supervisor of Elections race will be on the ballot in November of 2024. A full list of municipal races and candidates for that year can be found on voterfocus.com
This story is published as part of a collaboration between the Key Biscayne Independent and WLRN News. Joshua Ceballos is WLRN’s Local Government Accountability Reporter and a member of the investigations team.