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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Lawsuit says Broward ballot skipped marijuana amendment

Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes

Special to the Times

Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes

21

October

A marijuana-legalization group has sued the Broward County Supervisor of Elections, saying a statewide amendment on medical marijuana was omitted from some voters’ absentee ballots.

Norm Kent, acting on behalf of NORML of Florida, filed the lawsuit in Broward circuit courtat 4:48 p.m. Thursday seeking an emergency hearing.

There is an “immiment danger that a significant portion of the voting public in Broward County, Florida, will be deprived of the opportunity to fully participate in the 2016 general election,” the lawsuit says.

His lawsuit cited a story in the Sun Sentinel which quoted an Oakland Park resident and former city commissioner, Anne Sallee, who said her ballot jumped from Amendment 1 to 3, omitting the Amendment 2 question about medical marijuana. The lawsuit includes a copy of her ballot.

“The end result of this error is catastrophic and cataclysmic,” the lawsuit said.

Kent said he has heard from six other voters from Oakland Park and Wilton Manors who said that they were missing the marijuana question.

“We don’t know whether this affects one city and one precinct and 8,000 voters or 80,000 voters,” he said.

So far, about 189,000 vote by mail ballots have been requested by Broward voters and not yet returned, and about 58,000 have been completed and returned.

The case has been assigned to Broward Circuit Judge Carol Lisa Phillips. Kent said he will call the courthouse Friday morning and seek an emergency hearing for Monday.

Kent said he wants the judge to order an inquiry into the creation of the ballots. He wants the companies that contract with Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes to provide the court a copy of the ballots they created. Kent said he doesn’t know how many contractors print various versions of the ballot across Broward.

“I’d like to think it’s not so much an adversarial hearing as good faith judicial inquiry, “ he said. “If they come up with some sort of adversarial pleading I will deposition every single worker and employee, I will call every printer. I expect this to be a respectful, thorough judicial inquiry.”

Orlando lawyer John Morgan, who is bankrolling the amendment, indicated that he could get involved. Morgan said that he is consulting with University of Florida constitutional law professor Jon Mills.

“Broward is our best county,” Morgan said.

Snipes didn’t respond to an email from the Herald Thursday night about the reports that some ballots are missing the marijuana question. But she told the Sun Sentinel that her staff investigated and found no faulty ballots.

“We have a check-and-balance system. We can go back and see what we did send to the printer,” she told the Sun Sentinel. “When you’re dealing with this much paper and this many people, we may have made a mistake. But I haven’t heard a lot of people saying, ‘I don’t have it, either.’ We’ve already sent [Sallee] another ballot.”

In 2014, a similar question to amend the state’s constitution to allow medical marijuana garnered about 58 percent support, about two points shy of the 60 percent threshold required to amend the constitution.

“This is the kind of thing Jimmy Kimmel could be joking about on late night TV. Where else but Broward County could they leave off Amendment 2?” Kent said.

[Last modified: Friday, October 21, 2016 11:38am]

    

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