Hours after a Broward judge said she was ready to rule quickly on a case about ballots missing the medical marijuana amendment, a new wrinkle appeared Tuesday evening: Two more voters found Amendment 2 missing on their ballots.
NORML of Florida, a group that supports reforming marijuana laws, filed a new emergency motion Tuesday night asking the court to hold a rehearing in its lawsuit against Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes.
The voters “are victims of the respondent’s failure to carry out her constitutional duties and face the prospect of being deprived of the right to vote on matters of great public concern,” attorney Russell Cormican wrote in a new motion.
Cormican works with Norm Kent, the attorney for NORML of Florida. They filed suit last week after elections officials verified that two Oakland Park voters received mail-in ballots that omitted Amendment 2, a statewide question about allowing the use of marijuana for medical reasons.
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Cormican wrote in an emergency motion filed Tuesday evening that he had heard from two additional voters — Johnny Alexander and Cary Gandolfi, both from Plantation — who had received absentee ballots that lacked the amendment. He heard from those voters after his emergency hearing earlier in the day.
He wrote that Alexander contacted Snipes’ office about his ballot and was “treated in a dismissive manner and was told that he must be mistaken.”
Gandolfi told the Miami Herald that she received her absentee ballot last week and realized that it was missing the medical marijuana amendment. She was planning to call Snipes to find out how to get a replacement ballot when she heard CBS4’s news report about the Tuesday hearing. Gandolfi said she emailed the CBS4 reporter to tell her that her ballot was missing the amendment too, and was ultimately connected with Kent.
A copy of Alexander’s ballot was attached to the plaintiff’s new motion and shows that the Amendments go from 1 to 3, skipping Amendment 2.
The motion says saw photographs of Gandolfi’s ballot but did not attach it since she had already filled it out. Cormican asked if he could file it under seal to protect her privacy. Gandolfi declined to forward a copy of her ballot to the Miami Herald.
Tonya Edwards, a spokeswoman for Snipes, said Tuesday evening that she had not heard about the Plantation voters. She said that her office knew of no additional absentee ballots with the missing amendment beyond the original two in Oakland Park.
Broward Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips had not filed her response to the hearing request as of 6 p.m. Tuesday and it was unclear if she had received the new motion. During the court hearing Tuesday morning, she heard arguments for about an hour.
“We are not prepared to sacrifice a single vote or a single ballot,” Kent told the court Tuesday morning. “We have an election two weeks away where every vote counts without knowledge of the extent or breadth of the error.”
Burnadette Norris-Weeks, an attorney who appeared on behalf of Snipes, told the judge that only two absentee ballots omitted the marijuana question. As of Tuesday morning, elections officials have opened about 20,000 absentee ballots and found no other ones that are missing the question.
Last week, Snipes verified that Anne and Steve Sallee of Oakland Park had received ballots that did not have the medical marijuana question. That raised alarm bells and questions about how many additional ballots could have omitted the question.
Snipes said at a press conference Friday that she believed that the two voters received test ballots created by her office when it recoded the ballots for Oakland Park after a candidate dropped out. That test ballot omitted the medical marijuana question and Snipes’ office didn’t catch that error. Test ballots are not supposed to be sent to voters but somehow they were. Snipes said that at a maximum her office made seven of those test ballots.
In his new motion Tuesday night, Cormican argued that Snipes’ position that the faulty ballots stemmed from test ballots in just Oakland Park was now moot.
“The newly discovered evidence presented herein illustrates that the problem is occurring in multiple districts,” he wrote.
Cormican’s new motion also included information about one voter at an early-voting site who also had a faulty ballot Monday.
Debbi Ballard told the Miami Herald she complained that her ballot was missing Amendment 2 and that a poll worker at ArtServe in Fort Lauderdale confirmed that it was missing the amendment and gave her a new ballot. Edwards told the Herald that it was a printing error caused by humidity. Edwards said that the initial ballot did actually include Amendment 2 but it was difficult to see.
Polls show the medical marijuana amendment is likely to be approved by voters.