A controversial special interest group with ties to a natural gas company in central Florida got clobbered by the Florida Supreme Court this week. In a unanimous ruling, the justices tossed a proposal backed by Citizens for Energy Choices off the November 2020 ballot. The plan would have deregulated Florida’s energy market and stripped approximately 80 percent of Florida citizens of the right to keep their current energy providers, forcing them to choose a new provider.
By law, the justices were not permitted to review the merits of the proposal, but focused explicitly on two questions:
- Whether the amendment itself satisfies the single-subject requirement of article XI, section 3, Florida Constitution; and
- Whether the ballot title and summary satisfy the clarity requirements of section 101.161, Florida Statutes
In rendering its opinion, the court affirmed that the ballot summary language, which is what voters read at the ballot box, mislead voters by telling them the ballot initiative would grant the explicit right to sell electricity, when the fuller language proposed for amending the constitution did no such thing:
“The Proponents [Citizens for Energy Choices] argue that…the ballot summary is an accurate statement of the Initiative’s effects because the Initiative necessarily implies a right to sell electricity. We reject this argument. We do not find any such implicit right in the proposed amendment. The ballot summary expressly states that the Initiative grants the right to sell electricity, and the Initiative does not do so.”
The ruling effectively ends Citizens for Energy Choices’ campaign to gather signatures and place the measure on the November 2020 ballot. But it also deals a massive public relations blow to the credibility of Citizens for Energy Choices, as it underscores a litany of previous accusations against the group for misleading voters on both the ballot and the petition drive.
ICitizens for Energy Choices has been slammed repeated for using misleading tactics to deceive voters, and earlier this month, Florida officials urged law enforcement to investigate instances of petition fraud relating to vendors hired by CEC, who are charged with collecting signatures from voters by providing them with false information about the ballot measure.