(For backup, download explanations and references on all Amendments, and why I recommend a “Yes” vote on amendments 4, 9, and 13: amendments_florida_2018 )
Ripe with confusion are 13 Florida Constitutional Amendments on the November 6, 2018 ballot. Amendment 8 is on the ballot but won’t even be tallied. Other Amendments contain multiple, unrelated issues, and/or are misleading, and/or do not belong in a Constitution. According to Ballotpedia.org the average question on Florida’s ballot requires 20 years of U.S. formal education to read and understand.
My initial door canvassing plan, besides asking voters to show up and support all Democrats on the ballot, was to recommend “Vote yes on 4” but nothing more, consistent with the Tampa Bay Times. My plan has changed a little.
At one of the first doors I knocked on, the voter (an employee of the Seminole Tribe of Florida) asked me about Amendment 3, which I wasn’t planning to mention. Another voter felt strongly in favor of Amendment 6 (modeled after California’s Marsy’s Law) that would supposedly expand victims’ rights.
After careful review, besides a “Yes” vote on Amendment 4 (voting restoration), I decided to mention “Yes” on Amendment 9 (bans near off-shore drilling) and “Yes” on Amendment 13 (ends dog racing), if I have the voter’s attention.
I was not planning, and I will not, argue a “No” opinion to voters on goofy, unreadable, or deceptive Amendments. But I do want to show that I understood the issues and the voter’s concern, if I am asked about another Amendment.
For any other Amendment, I take the passive approach of damnation by not mentioning it. I think the rest, except for 4, 9, and 13, are all bad, but I want to make sure a voter votes and gets through the ballot, whether or not they vote the right way on the gobbledygook. If voters are slightly suspicious, the 60% required vote for passage will prevent most of the bad Amendments from passing. The best warning I can give is to say, “take the time to carefully read your vote-by-mail ballot.” If a voter asks about another Amendment, I say briefly what it is about, and move on.
Based on my research in amendments_florida_2018, Amendments 4, 9, and 13 are easy “Yes” votes and should be easy to understand. Most voters, and all major groups, already support Amendment 4, and when they see 9 and 13, those will be obvious “Yes” votes.
Amendment 4 is very important and beneficial to society because it will automatically restore voting rights to felons (except not murderers or sex criminals) who have completed their sentences. With some 1.5 million citizens who have completed their sentences and cannot vote, Florida is last in the nation in voting restoration. Florida has a long history of suppression of Black voters, even for ridiculous and made-up reasons just to prevent voting. Anti-voting laws for Blacks were intentionally written into the state Constitution after the end of slavery. The League of Women Voters of Florida, which, along with all other major organizations supports Amendment 4, shows data that post-release recidivism rates are reduced by automatic rights restoration. Vote “Yes” on 4.
Most voters immediately understand and support Amendment 4, so you may not have to explain it, and Amendment 9 (bans near-offshore drilling) and Amendment 13 (ends dog racing) are clear. Voters will see that there is an anti-indoor-workplace-vaping part of Amendment 9, which is weird. But it is so necessary for us in Florida to put a ban on near-offshore drilling, to protect our beaches, that we should just hold our noses on indoor -workplace-vaping, and vote “Yes” on 9. Amendment 13 is also an easy “Yes” vote, which will end wagering on dog racing because dog racing is cruel. Isn’t horse racing cruel? Yes, sometimes, but that’s no reason not to vote “Yes” on 13. Does this belong in the Constitution? No, but the legislature has not acted on it. How many more Greyhounds have to die before the legislature gets around to it?
Voters think that Amendment 3 gives them the right to vote on casinos, but it effectively does the opposite. Amendment 3 dis-empowers the local vote on gambling and/or the Legislature, because any new gambling would have to be approved by a statewide petition drive, and statewide vote, as a Constitutional Amendment. Not likely.
The Tallahassee Democrat explains, “Amendment 3 purports to put citizens in charge of any expansion of gambling, but it’s mainly a sop to Disney, which opposes all casino gambling, and the Seminole Tribe, which doesn’t want any competition for its gambling operations.” Amendment 3 is supported by the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, the Broward Democratic Party, and the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida. From the beginning of time, Democratic groups in South Florida have voted for anything that mentions gambling. The League of Women Voters supports Amendment 3 but for the opposite reason, because “the League has held a consistent position against gambling”! Don’t drink the Kool-Aid on Amendment 3. Is it worth the time no explain to voters? No.
Feel-good Amendment 6 deceptively appears to protect victims’ rights, but the League of Women Voters of Florida argues, “Victims’ rights are already protected in the Constitution, and this amendment would eliminate an existing provision that victims’ rights do not interfere with the constitutional rights of the accused.” This is a very comfortable “No” vote, and Amendment 6 is opposed by all major groups, but unfortunately some voters will drink the Kool-Aid.
Two other Amendments, 11 and 12, may look good to some progressive groups but, in my opinion, are bad. The Miami-Dade Democratic Party and the ACLU of Florida (but not the Broward Democratic Party and not the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida) support Amendment 11, which might allow some criminal justice reforms to apply retroactively which might shorten prison terms and might save taxpayers’ money by reducing prison populations. Which is why Florida Tax Watch also supports 11. (Amendment 11 also cleans up obsolete, unenforceable language in the Constitution, by preventing the Legislature from preventing non-citizen ownership of property and removing Bullet Train language, which was already repealed.)
But the true results of feel-good Amendment 11, specifically the retroactive sentencing changes, are unpredictable. Florida Today staff explain that, “Gun rights groups support [Amendment 11] in hopes that will make retroactive a change to the “stand your ground” law that put[s] the burden of proof on the prosecution instead of defendants in pre-trial hearings.” A sentenced gun murderer might later claim a reduced sentence in future revisions to Stand Your Ground gun laws. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.
The Miami-Dade Democratic Party supports Amendment 12, which would lengthen the ban on lobbying by elected officials to 6 years, from 2 years presently. That’s excessive and out-of-step nationally. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid. We should slow down the political revolving door but we don’t have to slam it shut. Lobbyists are part of the political-ecological web and provide information to legislators. Amendment 12 is opposed by the Broward Democratic Party, the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida, and Florida Tax Watch, and you should, too.