FL Supreme Court gives elections officials a deadline to respond to legal attack on primary ballot initiative

By: - October 15, 2020 1:55 pm

The Florida Supreme Court. Photo by Colin Hackley.

The Florida Supreme Court has given Secretary of State Laurel Lee until Tuesday to respond to a petition that could block enforcement of the proposed Amendment 3, which would replace the state’s party primaries with a “top two” or “jungle” primary.

The legal wrangling comes as the Nov. 3 elections draws near.

Republican House Speaker-designate Chris Sprowls and Democratic Sen. Janet Cruz are the public faces of a petition filed Tuesday asking the court to take a second look at the measure, which the justices OK’d for the Nov. 3 ballot in March.

Although Lee is the named plaintiff, the “All Voters Vote” campaign will seek to intercede in the case, according to spokesman Steve Vancore of VancoreJones Communications. The named plaintiff is Glenton Gilzean, CEO of the Central Florida Urban League.

The initiative would create a single primary in races for governor, Cabinet, and the Legislature open to all voters, including those registered as having no political preference, with the top two vote-getters proceeding to the general election. That could be two Republicans or two Democrats.

Nearly 3.7 million voters aren’t affiliated with any party, about one third of the total.

The petition points to studies during the summer suggesting the amendment could dilute Black-majority districts by counting GOP and nonaffiliated white votes.

It argues that the initiative’s ballot language could confuse voters by not explaining that and that, if approved by 60 percent or more of the voters, would undermine constitutional protections for minorities.

Glenn Burhans Jr., chairman of the campaign, has characterized the case as “a sham” based on “false and misleading data.” He has noted that some 1 million minority voters are non-affiliated. Supporters argue the amendment would mitigate partisan polarization.

Since voters are already casting mail-in ballots — and early in-person voting begins in some counties on Monday — it’s too late to strip the proposal from the ballot.

Instead, the petition asks the court to order elections officials not to canvass, report, or certify the results.

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Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal. He began his career covering the Florida Capitol for United Press International. More recently, he wrote for Florida Politics.