Topics
Code Section
florida > The Florida Election Code > Voting Methods And Procedure

§ 101.161 Referenda; ballots.

Overview of Statute

This statute governs ballot referenda, including requirements for ballot summary and title. The ballot summary and title are to be written by the sponsor and approved by the Secretary of State. The Department of State is required to give each proposed amendment a designating number, which also appears on the ballot.

Statute

(1) Whenever a constitutional amendment or other public measure is submitted to the vote of the people, a ballot summary of such amendment or other public measure shall be printed in clear and unambiguous language on the ballot after the list of candidates, followed by the word “yes” and also by the word “no,” and shall be styled in such a manner that a “yes” vote will indicate approval of the proposal and a “no” vote will indicate rejection. The ballot summary of the amendment or other public measure and the ballot title to appear on the ballot shall be embodied in the constitutional revision commission proposal, constitutional convention proposal, taxation and budget reform commission proposal, or enabling resolution or ordinance. The ballot summary of the amendment or other public measure shall be an explanatory statement, not exceeding 75 words in length, of the chief purpose of the measure. In addition, for every amendment proposed by initiative, the ballot shall include, following the ballot summary, a separate financial impact statement concerning the measure prepared by the Financial Impact Estimating Conference in accordance with s. 100.371(5). The ballot title shall consist of a caption, not exceeding 15 words in length, by which the measure is commonly referred to or spoken of. This subsection does not apply to constitutional amendments or revisions proposed by joint resolution.

(2) The ballot summary and ballot title of a constitutional amendment proposed by initiative shall be prepared by the sponsor and approved by the Secretary of State in accordance with rules adopted pursuant to s. 120.54. The Department of State shall give each proposed constitutional amendment a designating number for convenient reference. This number designation shall appear on the ballot. Designating numbers shall be assigned in the order of filing or certification and in accordance with rules adopted by the Department of State. The Department of State shall furnish the designating number, the ballot title, and, unless otherwise specified in a joint resolution, the ballot summary of each amendment to the supervisor of elections of each county in which such amendment is to be voted on.
(3)
(a) Each joint resolution that proposes a constitutional amendment or revision shall include one or more ballot statements set forth in order of priority. Each ballot statement shall consist of a ballot title, by which the measure is commonly referred to or spoken of, not exceeding 15 words in length, and a ballot summary that describes the chief purpose of the amendment or revision in clear and unambiguous language. If a joint resolution that proposes a constitutional amendment or revision contains only one ballot statement, the ballot summary may not exceed 75 words in length. If a joint resolution that proposes a constitutional amendment or revision contains more than one ballot statement, the first ballot summary, in order of priority, may not exceed 75 words in length.
(b) The Department of State shall furnish a designating number pursuant to subsection (2) and the appropriate ballot statement to the supervisor of elections of each county. The ballot statement shall be printed on the ballot after the list of candidates, followed by the word “yes” and also by the word “no,” and shall be styled in such a manner that a “yes” vote will indicate approval of the amendment or revision and a “no” vote will indicate rejection.
(c)
1. Any action for a judicial determination that one or more ballot statements embodied in a joint resolution are defective must be commenced by filing a complaint or petition with the appropriate court within 30 days after the joint resolution is filed with the Secretary of State. The complaint or petition shall assert all grounds for challenge to each ballot statement. Any ground not asserted within 30 days after the joint resolution is filed with the Secretary of State is waived.
2. The court, including any appellate court, shall accord an action described in subparagraph 1. priority over other pending cases and render a decision as expeditiously as possible. If the court finds that all ballot statements embodied in a joint resolution are defective and further appeals are declined, abandoned, or exhausted, unless otherwise provided in the joint resolution, the Attorney General shall, within 10 days, prepare and submit to the Department of State a revised ballot title or ballot summary that corrects the deficiencies identified by the court, and the Department of State shall furnish a designating number and the revised ballot title or ballot summary to the supervisor of elections of each county for placement on the ballot. The revised ballot summary may exceed 75 words in length. The court shall retain jurisdiction over challenges to a revised ballot title or ballot summary prepared by the Attorney General, and any challenge to a revised ballot title or ballot summary must be filed within 10 days after a revised ballot title or ballot summary is submitted to the Department of State.
(4)
(a) For any general election in which the Secretary of State, for any circuit, or the supervisor of elections, for any county, has certified the ballot position for an initiative to change the method of selection of judges, the ballot for any circuit must contain the statement in paragraph (b) or paragraph (c) and the ballot for any county must contain the statement in paragraph (d) or paragraph (e).
(b) In any circuit where the initiative is to change the selection of circuit court judges to selection by merit selection and retention, the ballot shall state: “Shall the method of selecting circuit court judges in the   (number of the circuit)   judicial circuit be changed from election by a vote of the people to selection by the judicial nominating commission and appointment by the Governor with subsequent terms determined by a retention vote of the people?” This statement must be followed by the word “yes” and also by the word “no.”
(c) In any circuit where the initiative is to change the selection of circuit court judges to election by the voters, the ballot shall state: “Shall the method of selecting circuit court judges in the   (number of the circuit)   judicial circuit be changed from selection by the judicial nominating commission and appointment by the Governor with subsequent terms determined by a retention vote of the people to election by a vote of the people?” This statement must be followed by the word “yes” and also by the word “no.”
(d) In any county where the initiative is to change the selection of county court judges to merit selection and retention, the ballot shall state: “Shall the method of selecting county court judges in  (name of county)   be changed from election by a vote of the people to selection by the judicial nominating commission and appointment by the Governor with subsequent terms determined by a retention vote of the people?” This statement must be followed by the word “yes” and also by the word “no.”
(e) In any county where the initiative is to change the selection of county court judges to election by the voters, the ballot shall state: “Shall the method of selecting county court judges in  (name of the county)   be changed from selection by the judicial nominating commission and appointment by the Governor with subsequent terms determined by a retention vote of the people to election by a vote of the people?” This statement must be followed by the word “yes” and also by the word “no.”

History:

s. 34, ch. 4328, 1895; GS 218; RGS 262; CGL 318; ss. 1-11, ch. 16180, 1933; s. 1, ch. 16877, 1935; s. 4, ch. 17898, 1937; s. 1, ch. 22626, 1945; s. 5, ch. 26870, 1951; ss. 10, 35, ch. 69-106; s. 1, ch. 73-7; s. 13, ch. 77-175; s. 16, ch. 79-365; s. 2, ch. 80-305; s. 32, ch. 84-302; s. 11, ch. 90-203; s. 10, ch. 99-355; s. 1, ch. 2000-361; s. 4, ch. 2001-75; s. 5, ch. 2002-390; s. 5, ch. 2004-33; s. 11, ch. 2005-2; s. 33, ch. 2005-278; s. 29, ch. 2011-40; s. 6, ch. 2013-57.

Definition [General Election]

An election held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November in the even-numbered years, for the purpose of filling national, state, county, and district offices and for voting on constitutional amendments not otherwise provided for by law. Fla. Stat. § 97.021(16).

Definition [Ballot]

As used in the Electronic Voting Systems Act, ballot means the card, tape, or other vehicle upon which the elector’s choices are recorded. Fla. Stat. § 101.5603(2).

Definition [Election]

Any primary election, special primary election, special election, general election, or presidential preference primary election. Fla. Stat. § 97.021(12).

Definition [Candidate]

Any person to whom any one or more of the following applies:

(a) Any person who seeks to qualify for nomination or election by means of the petitioning process.
(b) Any person who seeks to qualify for election as a write-in candidate.
(c) Any person who receives contributions or makes expenditures, or gives his or her consent for any other person to receive contributions or make expenditures, with a view to bringing about his or her nomination or election to, or retention in, public office.
(d) Any person who appoints a treasurer and designates a primary depository.
(e) Any person who files qualification papers and subscribes to a candidate’s oath as required by law.
This definition does not include any candidate for a political party executive committee. Fla. Stat. § 97.021(6).

Cases

florida Cases

Case Name: Roberts v. Doyle

Citation: 43 So.3d 654

Year: 2010

Case URL: https://www.ravellaw.com/opinions/660590d9721291b2bac721120f84c111

Case Summary: Roberts v. Doyle held that the ballot title and summary for a proposed constitutional amendment on homestead benefits were misleading and failed to comply with the constitutional accuracy requirement.

Case Name: Florida Educ. Ass’n v. Florida Dept. of State

Citation: 48 So.3d 694

Year: 2010

Case URL: https://www.ravellaw.com/opinions/005827d154e3d6637622136b23417c05

Case Summary: Florida Educ. Ass'n v. Florida Dept. of State held that a legislatively proposed state constitutional amendment concerning public school class sizes was not misleading in failing to refer to a reduction of funding for class size requirements, for failing to mention that the state already was required to provide the funding for class size requirements, and for stating that the legislature would be required to provide sufficient funds to maintain the average number of students.

Case Name: Let Miami Beach Decide v. City of Miami Beach

Citation: 120 So.3d 1282

Year: 2013

Case URL: https://casetext.com/case/decide-v-city-of-miami-beach

Case Summary: Let Miami Beach Decide v. City of Miami Beach held that a lease approval question on the ballot summary was insufficient to provide voters with information needed to allow them to intelligently cast their ballots, and that the ballot question itself violated the statutory requirement of clarity and accuracy and had to be removed from the ballot.

Case Name: O’Connell v. Martin County

Citation: 84 So.3d 463

Year: 2012

Case URL: https://www.ravellaw.com/opinions/f66ce599c7b54103ae48b1af74a0d13a

Case Summary: O'Connell v. Martin County held that a referendum on an ad valorem tax exemption ordinance was valid because the ballot title complied with statutory requirements and the ballot summary was sufficient to allow voters to make an informed decision on election day.

Out-of-State Cases

Federal Cases

Regulations & Guidance