The Court Removed the Healthcare Freedom Amendment from the Ballot in 2010
Shouldn’t the Supreme Court be above politics and protect our right to amend the Florida Constitution? They blocked that right.
The legislature passed a proposed constitutional amendment during the 2010 Session that would have placed an amendment on the November 2010 ballot, referred to commonly as the Healthcare Freedom Amendment. The amendment would have added language to the Florida constitution prohibiting government from compelling individuals or businesses to purchase health insurance. This was a direct result of the passing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
The Justices removed the amendment from the ballot claiming that language in the ballot summary could have been misleading. Rather than allowing the full text of the amendment to replace the ballot summary, as they have done previously, they struck the entire amendment from the ballot.
The majority opinion states that placing the text of the full amendment on the ballot in place of the original ballot summary is outside of their authority. However, in 2004’s ACLU v Hood the Court did exactly the same thing it now claimed it cannot do. Chief Justice Canady specifically referenced this in oral arguments as well as his dissenting opinion.
Supporters of the Court’s decision claim that the State admitted that the ballot summary was misleading. However, they did not. By not addressing the issue of whether the language was misleading in their brief, the Court automatically assumes this is an admission. When asked by Justice Quince, during oral arguments, if they were “conceding that there are problems with the ballot language” they replied yes.
There was no reason for the State to address the claim that the language was misleading in their brief because there was already established precedent that the full text of a proposed amendment could be placed on the ballot.
Chief Justice Canady’s opinion specifically notes, “The courts should act with restraint when we are asked to interpose judicial power to bar the people from voting on a proposal submitted to them by their elected representatives. Here, we could and should demonstrate appropriate restraint by placing on the ballot the ‘actual text of the amendment itself and not the proposed ballot summary.’”
Instead, the majority of the Court chose to follow their own policy preferences. They ignored precedent in a situation where it suited their desired outcome, over-riding the will of our elected representatives.