A Petition Will Be Invalidated As Misleading If Terms Are Not Defined Clearly

In People's Property Rights Amendments, we invalidated a misleading petition, stating that the "summary refers to the owner of real property but does not define 'owner.'

Consequently, the use of the term 'people' in the title 'People's Property Rights Amendments' is confusing because it is unclear if 'owner' is restricted to people who own the property or also to corporate entities." (People's Property Rights Amendments Providing Compensation for Restricting Real Property Use May Cover Multiple Subjects, 699 So. 2d 1304, 1306 (Fla. 1997)).

By like measure, in, we invalidated a petition because voters were not informed that the proposal's use of different terminology was legally significant.

In that advisory opinion, the summary used the term "hotel," but the text of the proposed amendment used the term "transient lodging establishment." Id. at 469.

The court noted that the legal definition for "transient lodging establishment" was much broader than that for "hotel," and concluded:

Thus, while the summary leads the voters to believe that casinos will be operated only in "hotels," the proposed amendment actually permits voters to authorize casinos in any number of facilities, including a bed and breakfast inn.

The court believed that the public perceives the term "hotel" to have a much narrower meaning than the term "transient lodging establishment." Id.

In General: English--The Official Language of Florida, 520 So. 2d 11, 12 (Fla. 1988), the court also addressed differing terminology where the summary stated that the Legislature could "implement this article," but the text stated that the Legislature had the power to "enforce this section." 520 So. 2d at 13.

The court, however, concluded that the two terms were synonymous and that voters could not reasonably be misled. See id.