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FILE - In this May 17, 2016, file photo, ballots are prepared for counting at Multnomah County election headquarters in Portland, Ore. The coronavirus has knocked presidential primaries back several weeks as officials worry about voters crowding into polling places. If the disease remains a hazard in November, Democrats say there's only one solution to preserve the November election, national voting by mail. (AP Photo/Don Ryan, File)

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All Voters Vote sues to challenge fiscal estimate for Amendment 3

Amendment would lead to open primaries for Legislature, Governor, Cabinet members elections.

The organization seeking to open up many of Florida’s primary elections to all voters is suing state officials over financial impact estimates that are supposed to tell people what taxpayers’ costs would be if Amendment 3 is approved in November.

All Voters Vote filed suit in Circuit Court in Tallahassee Thursday charging that the financial impact statement produced by the Financial Impact Estimating Conference is “inaccurate, ambiguous, and misleading.”

The Financial Impact Estimating Conference estimates the amendment would cost county Supervisors of Election a cumulative $5.2-$5.8 million for each of the first three election cycles Amendment 3 would impact.

The suit asks the court to order state officials to work up new estimates that would accompany ballot language for voters who would be asked in November whether to open all future primary elections for the state Legislature, Governor, and other Cabinet offices so that all voters can vote in primaries, regardless of party registrations.

The estimate is wrong, too high, and designed to discourage voters from voting for Amendment 3, All Voters Vote argues in its lawsuit.

“In preparing the financial impact statement the FIEC asked Florida’s Supervisors of Election to estimate the costs of allowing everyone to vote. Most said zero or did not respond, and some indicated the potential for cost savings. Inexplicably, the FIEC ascribed increased costs to counties which indicated that they would have no increased costs, if any, they would experience,’ Glenn Burhans, chairman of All Voters Vote, stated in a news release. “The financial impact statement will mislead and confuse voters on the financial impact of an All Voters Vote primary election system.”

The lawsuit claims that publishing its current estimate could “frustrate” voters.

“Ambiguously stating that ‘the combined costs across counties will range from $5.2 million to $5.8 million’ while failing to inform the voter as to the potential impact or lack of impact upon (or cost savings to) their own county is materially misleading, even were the estimate remotely close to reality,” the lawsuit said. “The FIS (financial impact statement) provides a misleading sense of precision and impact that may cause voters to reject the proposed amendment.”

The current fiscal impact estimate assumes higher costs in even numbered election years, but lower in odd-numbered years. Analysts who developed the fiscal impact estimate assumed the amendment would produce more candidates for office, thus increasing the length of the ballot and driving up costs.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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