(The Center Square) – Asking Floridians to halve the value of their vote by requiring proposed constitutional amendments to be approved twice in successive elections would appear to have dim prospects.
Keep Our Constitution Clean, the Fort Lauderdale-based committee sponsoring Amendment 4 on Florida’s Nov. 3 ballot, however, is hoping the state’s 14.4 million voters do more than glance at its proposal.
“Our goal is to ensure voters are given the opportunity to fully understand the immediate and future impacts of any proposed changes to our state constitution,” the group's website states. “Read the full text of this proposed constitutional amendment – the Voter Approval of Constitutional Amendments – and THINK TWICE to help keep our constitution clean.”
Keep Our Constitution Clean says it’s too easy to modify Florida’s Constitution by ballot initiative, arguing such changes are rightly the province of lawmakers and the governor.
Amendment 4 is one of six proposed constitutional amendments on the November ballot, and one of four that got there by citizen initiative.
Florida voters must approve ballot measures by a 60 percent supermajority. Nevada is the only state that requires amendments be approved twice by supermajorities.
Opponents said there’s no reason to think twice about the measure, calling it a “naked attempt” by a “dark money” group to thwart citizens from adopting initiatives popular with the people but not with the state’s Republican establishment.
Keep Our Constitution Clean has raised $165,500 in cash and received $8.85 million in in-kind services from Fort Lauderdale-based law firm Haber Blank LLP.
The League of Women Voters of Florida (LWVF) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, among other groups, say Keep Our Constitution Clean is financed by “unnamed interests” through the nonprofit A Better Miami-Dade Inc., which transferred $150,000 the committee in 2018.
According to the LWVF and the ACLU, A Better Miami-Dade Inc. is funded by corporate interests, including U.S. Sugar Corp., utilities and Associated Industries of Florida.
“It’s very suspicious,” LWVF President Patti Brigham said in September, noting with ballot measures requiring millions of dollars over a span of years to get onto the ballot, the measure presents “the absolute final nail in the coffin for the citizen-initiative petition process in Florida.”
“This amendment is a cynical political effort to obstruct voters’ ability to pass future constitutional amendments, even those with support from a supermajority of voters,” the ACLU said. “Only well-funded special interests will be able to afford to sponsor future ballot initiatives, thus subverting the entire intent of the citizen initiative process as being reserved for the people.”
Three recent polls indicate Amendment 4 is likely to fall short of 60 percent, but two show more support than opposition.
In a St. Pete Polls’ survey of 2,906 voters from Sept. 21-22, 46.1% said 'yes,' 35.1% said 'no' and 18.8% were unsure.
In an Oct. 1-4 University of North Florida poll of 3,142 voters, 41% approved, 52% said 'no.'
A Sept. 27-Oct. 2 Saint Leo University survey of 500 voters indicated 57.6% support the measure to some extent, 27.4% strongly support it and 30.2% somewhat support it.
Of those surveyed, 17.6% were unsure, 8% were somewhat opposed and 16.8% were strongly opposed.
Saint Leo University Polling Institute Director Frank Orlando said he was surprised the amendment may pass.
“Given the rate constitutional amendments tend to pass in Florida, it may seem counterintuitive an amendment making it harder to see those votes make an impact enjoys as much support as it does,” Orlando said.