Florida Ballot Initiatives Go to Courts

The presidential race may have been settled in Florida this year without the acrimony of 2000, but many of the state ballot measures approved on Election Day have ended up in court.

Legal tussles over ballot initiatives are not uncommon, but the number of challenges in Florida is unusual, said John Sowinski, an Orlando political consultant.

"The presidential election four years ago probably awoke people to some of the legal vulnerabilities of the process," he said.

One case has already been decided. The Florida Supreme Court (search) rejected a suit before Election Day claiming language in a measure seeking to limit the privacy rights of girls so lawmakers could pass a parental notification abortion law (search) was misleading. Voters approved the measure.

In a challenge to an initiative allowing slot machines at South Florida race tracks and jai alai (search) frontons, an anti-gambling group and two animal rights organizations allege massive fraud in the petition drive.

The groups say thousands of signatures submitted to get the measure on the ballot were forged, including signatures from at least three dozen dead people. A trial is scheduled for late January.

A second lawsuit has been filed by another anti-gambling group seeking a recount in Broward County, where 78,000 absentee ballots weren't counted correctly on election night. The adjusted total helped the initiative pass several days later.

Two other measures to increase the minimum wage (search) and scrap a high-speed rail project are being contested because backers did not include the name and address of paid signature-gatherers on petitions to place the issues on the ballot.

A lawsuit against a measure to change the deadline for future petition drives alleges the ballot language didn't fairly explain the effect of the constitutional amendment.

Lastly, Florida's hospitals have gone to court to challenge two attorney-backed medical malpractice initiatives.

The hospitals want a judge to delay implementation of one measure that will release health records to patients injured in "adverse medical incidents." The hospitals argue there is too much confusion over implementation.

A judge temporarily halted another measure which would yank the license of doctors who commit three acts of medical malpractice. Hospitals argued there were too many implementation questions with that initiative, too.