Joseph Andrews, Connie Benham, Dr. Juan P. Gray, Lynne Price, and Rev. Levy Wilcox, Appellants,
The City of Jacksonville, a consolidated political subdivision of the State of Florida, and Mike Hogan, as Duval County Supervisor of Elections, Appellees.
final until disposition of any timely and authorized motion
under Fla. R. App. P. 9.330 or 9.331.
appeal from the Circuit Court for Duval County. Donald R.
Moran, Jr., Judge.
S. Winkler, Jacksonville, for Appellants.
R. Gabriel, General Counsel, Jason R. Teal, Deputy General
Counsel, and Craig D. Feiser, Assistant General Counsel,
Jacksonville; Lauren V. Purdy and Simone Marstiller of
Gunster, Yoakley & Stewart, P.A., Jacksonville, for
challenge the action of the Jacksonville City Council in
putting a one-half-cent sales surtax referendum before voters
in the August 2016 election. Before voters passed the
underfunded pension liability surtax, a group of citizens
challenged the ballot's title and summary, among other
things, in court. They made various arguments against the
measure, all of which the trial court rejected. Now on
appeal, Appellants ask us to declare the election null and
void "for one, several, or all" of seven different
reasons. We decline to do so and affirm.
17, 2016, the Jacksonville City Council adopted an ordinance
setting a referendum on whether to adopt a sales surtax to
address the City of Jacksonville's problem of underfunded
pension liability. The Council took this action in response
to a state law enacted in March 2016, which authorized
counties to pass ordinances allowing for the levy of a
one-half-cent pension liability sales surtax. See
ch. 2016-146, § 2, Laws of Fla. The Governor approved the
law on March 25, 2016, and it took effect on July 1, 2016.
See §§ 212.055(9), 112.64(6), Fla. Stat.
(2016). The Jacksonville City Council set the referendum for
August 30, 2016. In late July, five weeks before the
election, Appellants filed a challenge to the ordinance. The
case wasn't decided before the election. And in the
election, voters approved the surtax. After the election, the
parties filed cross motions for summary judgment and the
trial court held a hearing. Ultimately, the trial court
decided the case by granting summary judgment in favor of the
circuit court's order granting summary judgment involves
a pure question of law that we review de novo. Hill v.
Suwannee River Water Mgmt. Dist., 217 So.3d 1100, 1102
(Fla. 1st DCA 2017).
make seven arguments for reversing the trial court's
judgment. The strongest of these arguments is that the ballot
title and summary misled voters to the point of requiring the
election to be voided. Florida law requires that whenever a
public measure is submitted to a vote of the people, a ballot
summary must be printed in clear and unambiguous language on
the ballot, which "shall be an explanatory statement,
not exceeding 75 words in length, of the chief purpose of the
measure." § 101.161(1), Fla. Stat. In construing
§ 101.161, the "[Florida Supreme Court] has
explained 'that the ballot [must] be fair and advise the
voter sufficiently to enable him intelligently to cast his
ballot.'" Roberts v. Doyle, 43 So.3d 654,
659 (Fla. 2010) (quoting Askew v. Firestone, 421
So.2d 151, 155 (Fla. 1982)). When challenged, courts will
review ballot titles and summaries by asking two questions:
"first, whether the ballot title and summary 'fairly
inform the voter of the chief purpose of the amendment, '
and second, 'whether the language of the title and
summary, as written, misleads the public.'"
Roberts, 43 So.3d at 659 (quoting Fla. Dep't
of State v. Slough, 992 So.2d 142, 147 (Fla. 2008)).
Ballot summaries need not explain every ramification of a
proposal, but must make sure that the chief purpose is clear
and unhidden. Fla. Hometown Democracy, Inc. v. Cobb,
953 So.2d 666, 673 (Fla. 1st DCA 2007). Courts will
invalidate a ballot title and summary if the record shows
that they are "clearly and conclusively defective."
Askew, 421 So.2d at 154-55; City of Riviera
Beach v. Riviera Beach Citizens Task Force, 87 So.3d 18,
22 (Fla. 4th DCA 2012). But they will be upheld if they state
the chief purpose and are not "affirmatively
misleading." Fla. Educ. Ass'n v. Fla. Dep't
of State, 48 So.3d 694, 704 (Fla. 2010); see also
City of Riviera Beach, 87 So.3d at 16 (instructing that
"[a] ballot title and summary cannot either 'fly
under false colors' or 'hide the ball' as to the
amendment's true effect"). Fair notice to voters is
evaluated presuming that "the voter [will] acquaint
himself with the details of a proposed ordinance on a
referendum . . . If he does not, it is not the function of
the ballot question to provide him with that needed
education." Miami Heat Ltd. P'ship v.
Leahy, 682 So.2d 198, 203 (Fla. 3d DCA 1996) (quoting
Metro. Dade Cty. v. Shiver, 365 So.2d 210, 213 (Fla.
3d DCA 1978)).
challenge focuses ostensibly on the summary, which they claim
to be misleading on its face. The ballot ...