A Leon County Circuit Court judge heard arguments Wednesday over whether Florida Constitution amendments proposed for the Nov. 6 ballot are unconstitutional because they “bundle” unrelated topics together and could confuse voters.
The amendments include a measure that combines two topics – banning offshore oil drilling and prohibiting e-cigarette “vaping” in workplaces and restaurants; another that combines death benefits for first responders with education fees, and a property rights measure.
The case is down to the wire because the deadline for printing ballots and mailing them to overseas voters is between Sept. 6 and Sept. 22. Leon County Circuit judge Karen Gievers said she will rule as quickly as possible on the case to help meet that deadline.
Defendants Robert Barnas and Harry Lee Anstead – a former Florida Supreme Court judge –first filed the lawsuit in the Florida Supreme Court. But the Florida Supreme Court kicked the lawsuit down to Leon County Circuit Court last week in a ruling it said was not meant to be interpreted as a decision or commentary on the case.
All of the controversial ballot measures were proposed by the state’s appointed Constitution Revision Commission, which meets once every 20 years
In their challenge, Anstead and Barnas said the main issue in their lawsuit is that the way the amendments are written is unconstitutional because voters would be forced to vote for something they oppose to pass something they support. Anstead and Barnas contend that violates voters’ First Amendment rights.
Among other things, lawyers for the state argued Wednesday that the amendments don’t violate voters’ rights because the Constitution Revision Commission has the legal right to bundle different topics.
Note: This post was updated 9/7/2018 to read “Constitution Revision Commission” instead of “Constitutional Revision Commission.”