A Broward judge will hold a second hearing in the case about ballots omitting the medical marijuana amendment to the state Constitution, after plaintiffs found two additional ballots that were missing Amendment 2.
Circuit Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips set a hearing for noon Thursday at the Broward Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale.
Last week, NORML of Florida, a group that supports reforming marijuana laws, sued Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes after two voters received absentee ballots that omitted Amendment 2. Snipes’ lawyer, Burnadette Norris-Weeks, argued in court Tuesday morning that NORML failed to prove irreparable harm since the two voters — a husband and wife in Oakland Park — were given replacement ballots.
Norris-Weeks argued that the faulty ballots were test forms mistakenly sent in Oakland Park. However, after the hearing two additional voters — both in Plantation — contacted NORML of Florida’s lawyer, Norm Kent, and said that they too had absentee ballots that omitted the question.
Kent’s law office filed a motion Tuesday evening seeking a rehearing. The motion included a copy of the ballot for one of the Plantation voters, Johnny Alexander. The ballot for the other Plantation voter, Cary Gandolfi, was not included in the record to protect her privacy because she had already filled it out.
Kent said that he plans to have the voters who received ballots without the amendment testify in court.
Elections officials have tried to track down Alexander and Gandolfi but have been unable to reach them, Norris-Weeks told the Miami Herald on Wednesday.
“We haven’t seen the two ballots, we don’t know what they are talking about,” Norris-Weeks said.
She said that elections officials have only verified the two original voters — Anne and Steve Sallee in Oakland Park — received ballots that omitted Amendment 2.
One voter also had trouble with a ballot at an early voting site at ArtServe in Fort Lauderdale Monday. Debbi Ballard said her ballot omitted the question so she asked for a new one. Snipes’ spokeswoman, Tonya Edwards, said that was a printing error and Amendment 2 was printed so faintly it could not be seen on that ballot. Ballard was given a new ballot.
As of Wednesday at 5 p.m., about 98,000 voters had cast ballots by mail and about 86,000 had voted at early voting sites in Broward. There are about 1.2 million voters in Broward.
“We have processed almost 100, 000 and none have been found to not have Amendment 2,” Snipes said in an email to the Miami Herald Wednesday.
Snipes said that elections workers at early voting sites are checking ballots for the amendment before handing them over to voters. At the elections warehouse in Lauderhill, those hired to open ballots are also checking to ensure that the amendment is there. And she said that before sending out new absentee ballots, officials are checking those too.
But Kent wants Snipes to take additional steps. He wants the court to order Snipes to post notices at early voting sites and election day precincts to remind voters to check their ballots to ensure that Amendment 2 is on it and to send notices to absentee voters. He also wants the court to order Snipes to do a public service campaign to alert voters to be on the lookout for defective ballots.
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.