Florida Supreme Court hears pros and cons of ‘jungle’ primary
TALLAHASSEE — It’s known as a “jungle” primary, and the Florida Republican and Democratic parties want no part of it.
Now, the Florida Supreme Court will decide whether a proposed constitutional amendment that would overhaul the state’s primary-election system will go before voters in November 2020.
Justices heard arguments Tuesday about the proposed amendment, which would allow registered voters to cast ballots in primary elections regardless of party affiliation.
The two candidates getting the most votes in each primary would advance to the general election.
Moving to such primaries would be a major change from Florida’s longstanding closed primary system, which generally limits primaries to voters registered with parties.
Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office and the state Republican and Democratic parties are trying to keep the measure from reaching the ballot, arguing at the Supreme Court that the proposed amendment would be misleading to voters.
The court plays a critical role in determining whether proposed constitutional amendments reach the ballot. It is not supposed to weigh the merits of initiatives but looks at ballot titles and summaries to determine if the wording meets legal tests, such as not being misleading.
All Voters Vote, a political committee trying to get the measure on the ballot, has submitted enough petition signatures to the state to get its measure on the ballot, making the Supreme Court review a pivotal final step. It is unclear when justices will make a decision on the proposal, which would apply to elections for the Legislature, governor and state Cabinet.
In questioning attorneys Tuesday, Chief Justice Charles Canady and Justice Alan Lawson appeared skeptical of the notion that voters wouldn’t understand the ballot proposal.
“One of the things I am struggling with is if you have a basic understanding of how we do things in Florida, and if you actually vote, you do,” Lawson said. “And you read the (ballot) summary and give it a few seconds of thought, you’re going to realize the implications of it, it seems to me. And I’m just struggling as to why that’s not true.”
Justice Carlos Muniz, however, delved into part of the proposed ballot language that says, “All candidates for an office, including party nominated candidates, appear on the same primary ballot.” The implication is that parties would be able to nominate candidates in some way before the primaries, and Muniz focused on whether that would be adequately explained to voters.