County Judge Clayton Simmons ruled against Citizens for Voter Rights, which sought to throw out the voting results.
In the primary election, voters approved two charter questions. The first aimed to coordinate election dates in hopes to increase voter turnout and save the city about $30,000. In order to do this, however, the current mayor and commissioner’s terms would need to be extended.
The second question included a host of housekeeping items to streamline the charter.
On Thursday, Damon A. Chase, representing Citizens for Voter Rights, argued that the extension of the commission terms and lack of information about the charter referendum were grounds for the amendment to be stricken.
Sanford residents voted to approve both questions, with 55 percent approval for question 1, and 51 percent approval for question 2.
Chase said question 1 violated Florida law for three main reasons. First, he said, the language of the question was incorrect, asking voters to approve a change in the “proposed” charter, when in actuality the change was the proposed charter.
Additionally, he said Florida law requires an explanatory statement with proposed amendments, which voters did not receive. Lastly, he said the wording of question 1 gave no mention of the fact that the current commission’s terms would be extended.
Chase said voters were not informed well enough to make a decision on the issue.
Marcia K. Lippincott, along with assistant city attorney Ken McIntosh, represented the city during the trial.
In Lippincott’s statement, she cited the mailer the city sent to residents to inform them about the amendment questions.
City Clerk Janet Dougherty also confirmed that a mailer explaining the amendments was sent to residents Aug. 19, one week before the election. Chase said that was too short of notice for voters.
Lippincot said the chief purpose of the question was to coordinate election dates, not to extend the terms of the commission.
“The ballot title clearly identifies the chief purpose, which was simply to change the election date,” she said.
Simmons agreed. He said: “Question One fairly advised the electorate that the chief purpose was to change the city election date to coincide with the state general election date.”
During the trial, Chase had also claimed that voters were not informed well enough on the charter referendums.
“It would be an insult to the majority of the electors who voted in favor of this issue to suggest that they were uninformed or duped,” the judge said.
Although the voting results on question 1 were ruled valid, the city decided to declare the balloting invalid for question, which negates the changes to the charter.
Simmons’ decision came after a four-month effort by the Citizens for Voter Rights to have the questions and their results removed.
On Aug. 7, the political action committee headed by Matt Lynch of Sanford called an emergency hearing to have the questions removed from the ballot. Judge Alan Dickey ruled to continue the item, pending the results of the election.
City Attorney William Colbert and Assistant City Attorney Ken McIntosh a few weeks ago moved to have the case dismissed.