Florida Record

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Advocacy group loses court battle over marijuana ballot question

By Kate Jacobson | Nov 4, 2016

FORT LAUDERDALE — A medical marijuana advocacy group lost its fight in court over a missing ballot question in Broward County, Florida.

The National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws (NORML) filed a lawsuit in October after several voters said a referendum legalizing medical marijuana was missing from their ballot. The group asked Broward Circuit Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips to order Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes to make sure voters were aware of possible problems with ballots.

But Phillips said those steps weren’t necessary, leaving advocates in the dark about how many voters won’t be able to weigh in on the medical marijuana issue.

“We don’t know how many ballots are actually missing the question,” Executive Director of NORML Florida Karen Goldstein told The Florida Record. “The supervisor of elections in Broward claims there were no more than seven ballots missing Amendment 2, but we’ve had a lot of calls.”

Snipes said in court she rectified the situation, and that the problem was isolated to only a few ballots. 

The issue came to light after two voters in Broward County reported their ballots did not have Amendment 2 — the marijuana referendum — on their ballots. Those two voters, along with two others who testified in court that they also did not have the question on their ballots, were given new, corrected ballots.

Goldstein said officials gave multiple reasons as to why the accident happened. And because the group was not given oversight, they might never know the impact the misprinted ballots could have.

“We only have [Snipes’] word,” she said. “We don’t know how many. It’s like a shot in the dark right now.”

Amendment 2 is a constitutional amendment that requires support from 60 percent of voters to pass. In 2014, a similar measure was on the ballot and received 57 percent of the vote. Marijuana advocates say 2014’s result illustrates that every vote matters, and that even a small percentage of voters not getting the chance to vote on the issue could affect the outcome of the election.

“There are 92 ballot styles for this election,” Goldstein said. “The supervisor of elections in Broward says they print test ballots for each ballot style to make sure they’re going to go through the machine properly. We don’t know why the seven test ballots in Fort Lauderdale got mailed out the way they did, and we don’t know if it’s happening in other areas. Seven ballots in one test area, if you do the math, that’s 600 to 700 ballots that could be missing Amendment 2.”

This isn’t the only issue Snipes is facing. Media reports claim absentee ballots haven’t been received by Broward voters, GOP groups accused election officials of voter fraud and some ballots had incorrect translations.

Goldstein said election results are not certified the day of the election, so it’s possible there are other legal avenues advocates can pursue if more evidence comes forward of ballot problems. She said that she’s unsure what, if anything, NORML might do.

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Broward County