Judge sets arguments in fight over ballot proposals


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Saying that the case is “entitled to priority,” a Leon County circuit judge will hear arguments Wednesday in a lawsuit that seeks to prevent six proposed constitutional amendments from going on the November ballot.

Judge Karen Gievers scheduled the hearing in an order issued Friday, three days after the Florida Supreme Court sent the case to circuit court.

Plaintiffs, including former Supreme Court Justice Harry Lee Anstead, filed the case Aug. 14 in the Supreme Court as a challenge to six proposed constitutional amendments placed on the ballot by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission.

The challenge is based on arguments that the commission improperly tied together unrelated issues in single ballot proposals.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday, however, transferred the case to circuit court.

The case, filed on behalf of Anstead and fellow plaintiff Robert J. Barnas, alleges that the proposals violate voters’ First Amendment rights by tying together unrelated issues.

The case raises the specter of voters having conflicting views of issues in the same ballot proposal --- for example, on a ballot proposal that combines a ban on offshore oil drilling with a ban on vaping or using electronic cigarettes in workplaces.

Ballots for the November election will begin going out to voters in September.

In her order Friday, Gievers alluded to a limited amount of time, writing that the case is “entitled to priority” and that she “has an obligation to expedite resolution” of the dispute.