STATEWIDE — This November, a new Amendment 4 is on the ballot, separate from the felon voting rights restoration amendment working its way through the courts.
This proposed amendment would transform elections by requiring any constitutional amendments be approved in elections not once, but twice.
What You Need To Know
- Amendment would basically kill citizen initiatives, League of Women's Voters president says
- Only Nevada requires 2 votes to make constitutional changes
- It's unclear who is behind measure, which is backed by a political action committee
- COMPLETE COVERAGE: Making Sense of the Florida Constitutional Amendments | Florida Voting Guide
“It would change the process of elections,” UCF political science professor Dr. Aubrey Jewett said.
When voters step into polling locations on November 3, Amendment 4 will ask Florida voters if proposed amendments should be approved in two consecutive elections before becoming law.
“Not only would it become more difficult to pass amendments, but we may have fewer amendments being proposed in the first place because people will realize this is now a lengthier process,“ Jewett said. “It’s going to be a much more expensive process.”
Florida’s standard is already high, Jewett said. Currently, amendments need a supermajority of 60 percent to pass.
“And that’s more than most states require," Jewett said. "And I might add that since we did add that requirement, we certainly have had less amendments passing since then as well."
Nevada is the only state that currently requires ballot initiatives pass in two consecutive elections before becoming constitutional amendments.
“This initiative would effectively kill citizen initiatives in the state of Florida,” League of Women’s Voters of Florida President Patricia Brigham said.
Groups Lining Up to Fight Amendment
One of the groups coming out swinging against Amendment 4 is the League of Women Voters of Florida. If approved, only the wealthiest could afford to push new amendments forward and deter smaller, grassroots efforts from ever trying,” Brigham said.
"It's already extremely difficult to get a citizen initiative on the ballot. It takes millions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of petition signatures, Supreme Court review. The legislature has whittled away at the process of direct democracy over the years, and this would really put the final nail in the coffin."
Other groups are quickly joining the opposition to the proposed Amendment 4 from passing.
An ACLU of Florida spokesperson said, "The ACLU of Florida opposes ballot initiative #4, Voter Approval of Constitutional Amendments. This ballot amendment removes a vital check on the powers of the Legislature and governor and raises First Amendment concerns. By making Floridians vote twice on all ballot measures, this new amendment would undermine the political power of Floridians and is inconsistent with the basic rights in the Florida constitution."
People Behind the Amendment Kept Hidden by Funding Support With PAC
A group called “Keep Our Constitution Clean PC” is behind the new measures, saying Florida’s constitution has been amended more than 100 times since it was ratified. The U.S. Constitution, by comparison, has only been amended 27 times in more than 200 years.
But the millions of dollars raised to implement this proposed measure is drawing suspicion about who is behind Amendment 4.
“They’re doing it through a dark money PAC [political action committee], where that PAC doesn’t have to release the names of its donors," Jewett said. "If they thought this was really a wonderful idea, one would say why aren’t they publicly speaking out about why this is a great idea? Instead, they're using a method that allows them to hide themselves and hide who is actually giving them the money."
But the nearly 14 million voters of Florida will decide whether Amendment 4 is right for the Sunshine State.
“This amendment would just make it more difficult to amend the Florida constitution,” Jewett said.
Calls to representatives for the “Keep Our Constitution Clean PC” group spearheading the Amendment 4 push had not been answered at the time of this publication.