Broward County

Broward judge rules in favor of elections officials in botched ballot case

Norm Kent, attorney for NORML of Florida, argues this week in front of Broward Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips in the case of the ballots missing the medical marijuana amendment.
Norm Kent, attorney for NORML of Florida, argues this week in front of Broward Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips in the case of the ballots missing the medical marijuana amendment. cjuste@miamiherald.com

A Broward judge ruled Friday morning that the county’s elections office has already taken appropriate steps to rectify the problem of a few ballots that omitted the medical marijuana amendment.

Circuit Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips issued an order shortly before noon denying a motion by a marijuana legalization group that sued Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes last week after two Oakland Park voters received absentee ballots that omitted Amendment 2 to legalize medical marijuana statewide. Later, two Plantation voters also received mail-in ballots that omitted the amendment.

Phillips wrote that NORML of Florida failed to “demonstrate irreparable harm or a violation of a clear civil right.”

Norm Kent, the attorney who sued Snipes on behalf of NORML, had asked the court to order Snipes to post signs at polling places and on social media and the mail alerting voters to check their ballots to verify they contain the amendment. But Phillips wrote that Snipes had already taken steps to fix the situation, including providing replacement ballots to those who asked for them and by instructing elections officials to examine ballots to determine whether they contain the amendment.

Elections officials have told the people they hired to open absentee ballots to verify that the amendment is on it, and have alerted supervisors at early voting sites to be on the lookout, too.

“The court determines these remedial acts are reasonable under the circumstances,” Phillips wrote.

In a statement, Kent said the “court’s decision regrettably focuses only on those defective ballots we know about, that the defendant had an opportunity to cure. It fails to pro-actively address the unknowing number of defective ballots, which the supervisor of elections admitted could still be out there and for which there may be no remedy.

“Instead of providing a curative instruction for the future, it leaves open the possibility that we may have to renew legal options if the breadth of the problem continues to become greater and more expansive than the Supervisor of Elections admits.”

For Amendment 2 to pass, 60 percent of Florida voters must approve the measure. Although the measure narrowly failed in 2014, polls show stronger support for it this time.

As of 10 a.m. Friday, about 112,000 had cast ballots by mail and about 127,000 had cast ballots at early voting sites in Broward. Early voting started Monday and concludes Nov. 6, two days before election day. There are about 1.2 million registered voters in Broward, the most left-leaning county in the state.

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