A Broward judge said Thursday she will rule promptly in a case filed by marijuana legalization activists who sued the Broward Supervisor of Elections after a few ballots were found that lacked the medical marijuana amendment.
Norm Kent, a lawyer for NORML of Florida, asked Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips to order elections officials to post signs at polling places to alert voters to look for Amendment 2, a constitutional amendment to allow medical marijuana.
A lawyer for Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes argued that signs aren't necessary and that Snipes has already taken appropriate steps to protect the voting process.
“We have put procedures in place that should alert us to any other occurence that comes up either in the vote by mail process or early voting process or on election day,” Snipes testified during a three hour hearing Thursday afternoon.
But a Plantation voter testified that he had a difficult time getting someone in Snipes’ office to believe him when he repeatedly called to say that his ballot was missing Amendment 2. Elections workers told him he was “mistaken,” he testified.
Last week, NORML of Florida, which supports reforming marijuana laws, sued Snipes after two voters, Anne and Steve Sallee of Oakland Park, received absentee ballots that omitted Amendment 2.
Snipes has said she believes they received test ballots, and that only a handful were printed for Oakland Park and mistakenly sent to voters. The new test ballot was created after a candidate in Oakland Park dropped out.
But NORML’s lawyers cast doubt about her explanation when two more voters — both from Plantation — surfaced with the same problem.
One of those voters, Johnny Alexander, testified Thursday that he called Snipes’ office three times to alert them that his ballot was missing the amendment and that elections officials didn’t believe him.
After one person in Snipes office said he was wrong, he said he then spoke to a supervisor.
“And she said to me ‘No, you’re mistaken. It is on the back of the ballot.... You are not reading the ballot correctly,’” he testified.
Alexander testified that one elections worker told him on the telephone, “I’m doing you a favor.”
“I said, ‘This is not a favor, this is my right to vote,’” he said. “I just wanted my ballot to vote.... No one ever told me they were sending me another ballot.”
Snipes testified that she had tried to track down Alexander and personally went to his address — which is at a La Quinta Inn — and left her phone number there. She said that her office is mailing him a replacement ballot.
Snipes said she was unable to track down the other Plantation voter, Cary Gandolfi, who she said had not sought a replacement ballot from her office.
Snipes said that more than 200,000 voters had cast ballots by mail or at early voting sites by Thursday at noon.
“We have I think we have four confirmed ballots did not have Amendment 2,” Snipes testified. “I don’t see the problem as being widespread based on the number.”
Kent countered: “So I guess four is ok?”
Snipes replied: “No.”
Kent retorted: “Is that because you have constitutional duty and responsibility to ensure every single voter has a complete and accurate ballot?”
Snipes replied that it is her duty to ensure everyone has an opportuunity to vote.
“When a person doesn’t have that opportunity I am going to seek a remedy for that,” she said.
Snipes said that any voter who contacts her office with a ballot missing Amendment 2 will get a replacement one. She also said that elections officials have been instructed to check ballots before they are mailed to voters or handed out at early voting sites to ensure the amendment is on them.
Amending the state Constitution to allow for medical marijuana requires that 60 percent of voters approve the amendment. Advocates for the amendment are banking on Broward, the most liberal county in Florida, for support.