Florida Judge Throws Out Anti-Health Care Reform Ballot Measure Because Of ‘Manifestly Misleading’ Language

james-shelferLast month, The Hill reported that Republicans in a number of states across the country were putting anti-health care reform measures on the ballot for the mid-term elections this year in order to bolster conservative voter turnout. “What we’re trying to do is give voters an added reason to show up to the polls,” said one South Carolina GOP official.

The GOP-led legislature in Florida put forward a measure to be included on this year’s ballot that would “prohibit the state from participating in any health insurance exchange that compels people to buy insurance.” But yesterday, Circuit Court Judge James Shelfer (who was appointed to a lower court by GOP Gov. Jeb Bush and elevated by current Gov. Charlie Crist) ordered that the proposed constitutional amendment be removed from the November ballot, calling the wording of the measure “manifestly misleading”:

State law requires ballot summaries to be clear and accurate. Circuit Court Judge James Shelfer said a proposed ballot summary for the amendment contains several phrases that are political and list issues that are not addressed in the proposal.

The first sentence of the summary says the amendment would “ensure access to health care services without waiting lists, protect the doctor-patient relationship, (and) guard against mandates that don’t work.”

Shelfer said the amendment does not guarantee any of those things.

Someone voting on the amendment, reading those introductory statements would have a false understanding of what they were voting on,” he said in a ruling from the bench.

The plaintiffs in the case argued that the summary language referred to issues not addressed in the bill, including that the amendment “will ensure access to health care services without waiting lists,” and “protect the doctor-patient relationship” as well as “guard against mandates that don’t work.”

Meanwhile, next Tuesday, Missouri voters will vote on a similar measure challenging the health insurance mandate Congress passed with the reform bill last year. The proposal “would prohibit governments from requiring people to have health insurance or from penalizing them for paying health bills entirely with their own money.”

While the Missouri measure has a good chance of passing, health care opponents are increasingly facing an uphill battle. Critics and even supporters note that the ballot measures likely would not affect the national health care law because of the Constitution’s “Supremacy Clause” allowing federal law to trump state law. Moreover, recent public polling suggests Americans are increasingly supporting the health care overhaul.