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Groups Settle Lawsuit Over Broward County Ballots

John O'Connor

A group challenging a Broward County ballot design they say is confusing has settled a lawsuit with the county’s Supervisor of Elections.

Now, Broward County voters will receive a bright yellow card when they go to cast their votes. The card reminds voters they have a choice on four separate ballot questions on the second page of the ballot, not three.

Citizens for Broward's Children filed the suit this week after voters reported they were unsure if they had voted on a constitutional amendment on judges or funding for children’s services. The constitutional question, Amendment 3, and the children's services funding are stacked in the third column on the second page of Broward County's ballot.

Attorney Michael Ryan said some voters who thought they were voting for or against the constitutional amendment had actually cast that vote on funding for children’s services.

“This was a real voter error problem," Ryan said. "And to the supervisor’s credit, we were able to take that data and really put together a smart solution.”

Advocates worried confused voters would reject $60 million for parent counseling, therapy for kids with special needs, after school library services and more."

Credit Tom Hudson / WLRN
Citizens for Broward's Children is worried voters might miss this ballot question about funding for children's services.

The settlement makes no judgment about the design of Broward’s ballot. Attorney Burnadette Weeks works on behalf of Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes. Weeks said the ballot complies with Florida law.

“From our standpoint, there was nothing wrong with the way that the ballot was laid out," she said. "Voters do have a responsibility to review ballots.”

A hearing Tuesday was postponed at the last minute as the two sides worked on a solution. A Wednesday hearing with Circuit Court Judge Dale Ross was brief.

"Quite candidly, my first impression of this lawsuit is I'm kind of astonished that the calm heads would not prevail," Ross said in accepting the settlement. "I think we all want the same darn thing: we just want the people in the state of Florida, Broward County, to have the right to exercise their very special privilege of franchise in an informed way."

Citizens for Broward’s Children says they will print the cards and have them at polls as soon as possible. Poll workers will also remind voters about the number of ballot questions.

Ryan said the solution wasn't ideal because more than 64,000 residents have already cast early votes or mailed in absentee ballots. But he hoped voters had heard of the lawsuit and were paying more attention to their ballots.