Sadly, we may need an amendment to force future commissions to limit proposals to one issue at a time.
Florida provides several methods for placing constitutional amendment proposals on the ballot. One involves citizen initiatives. Another involves the Constitution Revision Commission, which meets every 20 years.
Two previous commissions had mixed success. In 1978 voters rejected all eight ballot proposals of the commission. In 1998 voters approved eight of nine proposals.
But this third commission proved to be just as dysfunctional as the Legislature. It has eight proposals for the voters; six of the eight involve multiple issues.
That’s right, voters in November will see several examples in which two to four proposals are lumped together in one vote. This ought to be unconstitutional. Sadly, we may need an amendment to force future commissions to limit proposals to one issue at a time.
And it’s an outrage that some of the ballot language is misleading and vague.
Let’s take proposal 6003:
Voters will see this title: “Amendment 8: School board term limits and duties; public schools.” That sounds innocent enough — as innocent as a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
• The first issue would create eight-year term limits for school boards. This ought to be a home rule issue for individual counties.
• The second issue involves misleading ballot language that allows the state to operate and control charter schools, not the local school board. But it’s not stated that way.
• The third issue would require promotion of civic literacy. This is not even needed. The Legislature already has a requirement for civic literacy education. But this appears to be a device to sneak through the charter school amendment.
Some have called for voting down all of the multiple-issue amendments. That certainly would be better than voting for all of them.
However, there is one group of amendments that is not controversial and deserves passage. It would remove an outdated alien land law provision from the constitution, remove high-speed rail language from the constitution and clarify applicability of a repealed criminal statute.
Voters won’t be taking up the amendments till the November general election. But along with the eight proposals (20 issues in all), there are five other constitutional matters on the ballot for a total of 13. That means lines on Election Day will be long as voters try to sort out this mess. We recommend voters consider early voting or requesting write-in ballots so they can take their time.
One matter that deserved to be on the ballot involved a Constitutional Amendment that passed in 1998 with 64 percent of the vote. If the winner of a primary has no opposition in the general election, then all qualified voters, regardless of party, can vote in the primary. The primary in effect is the general election.
But Republicans and Democrats gamed the system by encouraging write-in candidates to file, which the Florida Supreme Court decided meant that the primary was closed, leaving the general election to a race between a strong candidate and a token write-in. Never mind no write-in candidate has ever won an election in Florida, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Democrats in South Florida and Republicans in North Florida like having elections all to themselves. Yet the numbers of NPA voters (No Party Affiliation) are growing.
This proposal was shockingly voted down by the Constitution Revision Commission. This means that there should be a citizens’ initiative to close the write-in loophole.