On Tuesday, Attorney General Ashley Moody filed a Supreme Court brief against a well-funded citizens’ initiative that would dramatically change Florida primaries.
The All Voters Vote (AVV) committee would open up some of Florida’s most important primary elections to all voters, including independents, starting in 2024, setting up a “top-two” system.
The citizen initiative proposes that “all registered voters (may) vote in primaries for state Legislature, Governor, and Cabinet regardless of political party affiliation.”
However, Moody opposes the concept, which now has over 700,000 of the required 766,200 valid signatures.
The ballot summary is, according to Moody’s office, unclear. That’s because it “does not inform voters that the primary election would essentially be replaced by a general election with a runoff election to follow if warranted.”
Moody said, “The proposed ballot language does not open Florida primaries, it eliminates them, and gives party bosses — not voters — sole discretion over the party candidate nominating process. This proposed summary does not disclose that fact to voters and would undo a system set up to prevent political corruption and closed-door deal-making.”
“The primary process was adopted to eliminate the good-ole-boys clubs of yesteryear when party brass in smoke-filled rooms chose the party’s candidates. While this proposed ballot question purports to improve upon Florida’s system for electing leaders, the ballot title and summary hide the fact that it would explicitly allow political parties to select candidates through a closed process,” she added.
Moody’s objection, outlined in the brief, includes scenarios that divest people from picking party nominees: “Parties would be free to adopt nomination processes that make it difficult or impossible for party members to participate, such as a nominating convention in which only delegates or other representatives may cast a meaningful vote.
Because “the ballot language does not tell voters that it is using the terms ‘primary’ and ‘party nominated candidate’ in a way that departs from ordinary usage, long-standing practice, and the current statutory definition of the term ‘primary election,’ ” the proposed amendment “will not deliver to the voters of Florida what it says it will,” and the Court should deny ballot placement, the brief adds.
Naturally, Glenn Burhans, the chair of the committee, sees it differently.
“The All Voters Vote initiative is clear and concise, and we look forward to presenting this proven concept to the Court and the people,” Burhans said. “We respect(fully) disagree with the Attorney General’s opinion.”
Moody, in her first year as Attorney General, has opposed several citizens’ initiatives on the grounds of a lack of clarity.
Among them: Opposition to an assault weapons ban proposal, one which she rooted in personal narrative.
That “deceitful and misleading … far-reaching and misleading” proposal “would also include guns like the gun my grandfather gave [his children] 60 years ago.”
Moody also opposes a proposal to regulate cannabis like alcohol.
“There is no way ten pages of the law can be summarized clearly in 75 words or less and would adequately convey to the voters what exactly they will be voting on,” Moody said.