Moody challenges proposal seeking to open closed primary elections

Attorney general calls proposed ballot question misleading

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody speaks at a pre-legislative news conference, Jan. 30, 2019, in Tallahassee, Florida.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody speaks at a pre-legislative news conference, Jan. 30, 2019, in Tallahassee, Florida.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Attorney General Ashley Moody is challenging what she calls a misleading proposed ballot question asking voters to do away with Florida's closed primary elections.

Moody filed a brief Tuesday with the Florida Supreme Court seeking to squash the proposed amendment.

The initiative, proposed by the nonprofit All Voters Vote, seeks to allow all registered voters to participate in primary elections for state legislature, governor and cabinet, regardless of political party affiliation, beginning in 2024. Florida is a closed-primary state, meaning Republicans can only vote for Republicans and Democrats can only vote for Democrats.

But Moody believes the proposed amendment should be stricken from the ballot because it "would affirmatively mislead voters as to its true legal effect."

READ: Attorney general's challenge to open primaries proposed ballot question

Moody wrote that the proposed ballot language "is defective" because it states that all candidates would appear on the same primary election ballot. The problem, Moody argues, is that the public would understand it to include the process by which party-nominated candidates are selected.

"In the ubiquitous experience of Florida voters, those terms and synonymous, and the ballot language says nothing to dispel that common understanding, leading voters to the incorrect conclusion that the amendment would give them a role in the party nomination process, regardless of their political party affiliation," she wrote.

Moody also argues that the true effect of the proposal would be to "abolish" Florida's primary election process in which every qualified member of the electorate may cast a vote to nominate his or her party's candidate and "put control of the party nomination process in the exclusive hands of the parties themselves." She said that, without legislation restricting parties' discretion, parties "would be free to adopt processes that, like the existing primary election system, restrict participation to the parties' respective members."

"Parties would be free to adopt even nomination processes in which it may be difficult or impossible for party members to participate, such as a nominating convention in which only delegates may cast a vote," Moody continued. "The amendment therefore eliminates the guaranteed vote to which individual party members are currently entitled, and the ballot language simply does not disclose that sea change."

A news release from Moody's office said the attorney general is required to file a petition with the Florida Supreme Court "seeking an advisory opinion once an initiative is certified by the Secretary of State as crossing a threshold of signatures."

Local10.com sent an email to All Voters Vote seeking comment.