Lawsuit aims to toss ‘All Voters Vote’ off ballot
Glenton Gilzean Jr., chair of the Equal Ground Education Fund and President and CEO of the Central Florida Urban League.

Emergency motion cites studies indication primary change could hurt minority voters

An Orange County man sued to block voting on the “All Voters Vote” amendment on the statewide ballot.

Glenton Gilzean, Jr., president and CEO of the Central Florida Urban League, filed a lawsuit Tuesday in the Florida Supreme Court requesting it reconsider allowing Amendment 3 to remain on the ballot. If approved, the measure would overhaul the primary election system for Governor, Cabinet and Legislative races, going to a Top Two runoff system.

The lawsuit, an emergency petition for a “writ of mandamus,” referenced two studies also cited by the Florida Legislative Black Caucus at a September press conference.

One of those was by Democratic consultant Matthew Isbell, who suggests the change in elections could “bleach” minority districts by reducing the influence of minority voters. Another, by former Attorney General candidate Sean Shaw, suggests the shift would marginalize voters’ voice within their own party by allowing those from opposing parties to weigh in on nominations.

“The Florida Supreme Court has the power to strike unconstitutional amendments which will diminish the right of minorities to elect their preferred candidates — which is exactly what these studies have found this amendment will do,” said Gilzean.

“It is an uphill fight, but it’s an important fight. Every scientific study has demonstrated that this amendment would adversely affect minorities by weakening their ability to elect the candidates of their choosing.”

Notably, supporters of the measure say the change to a Top Two primary would improve democracy by allowing participation by no-party-affiliation voters instead of relying on the closed primary system in place now in Florida.

But the lawsuit contends it will in fact cause disruption within a state with a closely divided political environment.

“Florida is a state in which the parties are split almost evenly in voting representation: 35.69% of voters are registered Republican and 36.99% are registered Democratic,” the lawsuit states. “Currently, only four states have implemented a “top-two” election process at all — California, Washington, Louisiana, and Nebraska. These four states differ from Florida in that voter registration strongly favors one party in those states.”

The amendment has drawn rare bipartisan cooperation in trying to defeat the measure. While the studies cited in the lawsuit both were produced by Democrats, House Speaker-designate Chris Sprowls joins in criticism of the proposal.

“This isn’t reform, it’s a roulette wheel,” the Palm Harbor Republican said. “No one is really sure what elections would look like under this amendment. Entire constituencies — geographic, ethnic, racial and religious — could find themselves left behind.

“These new rules would encourage manipulation, incentivize dirty tricks and lead to increased uncertainty. Rather than enhancing democracy, this amendment could shut out entire viewpoints from the electoral system. The last thing Florida needs is an election system that causes greater confusion and does more harm than good.”

Sen. Janet Cruz, a Tampa Democrat, similarly thrashed the proposal.

“The ‘All Voters Vote’ Amendment has opposition from those of us on both sides of the aisle,” she said.

“This is not a Democrat or Republican issue; this is a voter issue. If passed, this amendment will hurt minority representation and lead to more mudslinging and political chaos, all with the ultimate winner being the one who was not chosen by the true majority of that district. Simply put, this amendment is a real threat to true representative democracy.”


Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]


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