This afternoon, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the controversial proposed constitutional Amendment 8 should remain off of the November ballot. They agreed with the lower court that the summary and title were misleading to voters. From the Tampa Bay Times:
Its ruling on the three-pronged initiative is final. Elections supervisors across Florida are slated to complete their Nov. 6 ballots almost immediately, to have them ready for overseas voting.
The Secretary of State’s Office appealed Cooper’s action, and the Supreme Court heard arguments on Sept. 4. [Online docket here.]
During the hearing, two justices — Charles Canady and Al Lawson — repeatedly suggested that the language before voters was clear in its intent.
“I’m struggling to understand why they aren’t going to get the main point here,” Chief Justice Canady said at one point during questioning of Ron Meyer, the lawyer representing the League of Women Voters.
The League, a vocal critic of Florida’s charter school spread, challenged Amendment 8 by arguing the proposal’s ballot title and summary obscured the true purpose of the measure: to create a pathway for charter schools to be approved outside local school boards.
The title is “School Board Term Limits and Duties; Public Schools.” The summary, too, does not use the words “charter schools.”
Four others on the court signaled during questioning that they saw logic in the League’s arguments. They took issue, for instance, with the provision that “permits the state to operate, control, and supervise public schools not established by the school board,” suggesting it does not clearly explain its the purpose or possible effects.
If the objective is to let the voters know what they’re voting on, Justice Jorge Labarga said to deputy solicitor general Daniel Bell, “why all the word-smithing? Why not just come out and say it?”
Related coverage: Florida justices ask pointed questions during hearing on Amendment 8
Amendment 8 packages three education-related measures into one ballot question. It would establish school board term limits, embed civics education in the constitution, and create a path for the creation of a public school authorizer outside the control of local school boards.
During debate among Florida Constitution Revision Commission members, concerns arose that the public school authorizer section should stand separately from the others because it could dramatically alter public education in the state.
A majority on the commission decided to tie the three together under the education umbrella, suggesting it would help stave off voter fatigue at the end of an already lengthy ballot. Some commissioners stated that the term limits and civics items might even help the authorizer piece win approval.
Related coverage: Constitution Revision Commission advances bundled education proposal to November ballot
Meyer used CRC discussions to bolster his position that the amendment’s chief purpose was not fully revealed to voters, as required by law.