Constitutional Proposals Could Alter Political Landscape
While the presidential election commands the most attention and dominates the airwaves, a series of proposed constitutional amendments could have significant impacts on Florida politics. Voters are faced with six potential amendments in 2020. This is half the number of amendments that appeared in 2018, but the potential changes could be impactful nonetheless.
In Florida, voters can approve amendments to the state constitution with an affirmative 60 percent vote. Briefly summarized, the 2020 proposals are:
Amendment 1: Citizenship Requirement to Vote in Florida Elections
The amendment would slightly alter the wording of the state constitution to say that “only a citizen” of the United States can vote. The constitution currently provides that “every citizen” can vote.
Amendment 2: Raising Florida’s Minimum Wage
This proposal ballot would gradually increase the state’s minimum wage in to $15 per hour by 2026. Florida’s current minimum wage is $8.56 per hour.
Amendment 3: All Voters Vote in Primary Elections for State Legislature, Governor and Cabinet
Florida is a closed primary state, such that only voters registered with a particular political party can vote in that party’s primaries. The proposed amendment would move to an open primary system and thereby allow to vote in primaries for governor, the state legislature and Cabinet-level races.
Amendment 4: Voter Approval of Constitutional Amendments
This proposed amendment would make it harder to amend the constitution through ballot initiatives in the future. Instead of requiring 60-percent approval in a single election cycle, the amendment would require a proposal to gain 60-percent approval in two separate elections.
Amendment 5: Limitation on Homestead Assessments
This proposal would extend the time period in which to claim the “Save Our Homes” tax benefit from two years to three years.
Amendment 6: Ad Valorem Tax Discount for Spouses of Certain Deceased Veterans Who Had Permanent, Combat-Related Disabilities
This amendment would allow spouses of deceased veterans who were injured in combat to continue to claim the property tax benefit available to those veterans.
As early voting has begun and election day nears, Amendment 2 related to the minimum wage might attract some voters to the polls. However, Amendments 3 and 4 would have longer term impacts on Florida politics. Amendment 3 would dramatically alter the manner in which candidates are presented in Florida’s general elections. Supporters claim it would give an added voice to independent voters and would reduce instances in which more extreme candidates emerge from primaries, instead likely favoring more moderate candidates. Both the Democratic and Republican parties of Florida favor allowing party members to continue selecting their nominees and therefore oppose the amendment.
Amendment 4 would reduce the number of potentially viable constitutional amendments. The prospect of qualifying and being placed on the ballot in two cycles, and obtaining 60 percent approval in each, would be daunting and expensive. This would limit the ability of citizens to advance constitutional reforms. At the same time, it could reduce the proliferation of amendments to the state constitution and the use of the citizens’ initiative process as a political tool.